The Tempering Effect of the Oceans on Global Warming

There are now 2 UPDATES at the end of the post.
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This post presents a very simple way to illustrate the tempering effect of the oceans on global warming. The idea for this simple presentation came from the response of the reality-impaired wing of the catastrophic human-induced climate change movement to the deep-ocean-warming portion of yesterday’s blog post On The Blog Post “Hiatuses in the rise of temperature” at ClimateLabBook. The cross post at WattsUpWithThat is here, and an archived edition of the response from Miriam O’Brien (a.k.a. Sou) at HotWhopper is here.

It is often said that more than 90% of the heat caused by manmade greenhouse gases is absorbed by the oceans.  But as skeptics often note, the absorbed heat has little impact on the temperatures of the oceans to depth, and that’s because of the seemingly limitless capacity of the oceans to store heat.


More than 3000 ARGO floats were distributed around the global oceans in the early 2000s to the measure temperature and salinity in all ocean basins for the depths of 0-2000 meters, about 1.25 miles…from the Southern Ocean surrounding Antarctica to the Arctic Ocean.  From that ARGO-based data and other measurements, starting in 2005, the National Oceanographic Data Center (NODC) determines the annual change in the heat stored by the oceans.  Ocean heat content data from the NODC for the depths of 0-2000 meters are presented in terms of Joules*10^22 (here), and the NODC provides the vertically average temperature anomaly data (here) from which the heat content is calculated (along with the salinity data).  The temperature data are presented in terms many people are familiar with, degrees C.

The units used to present the ocean heat content (Joules times 10 to the 22nd power) look like an astronomically large number. Feel free to add 22 zeroes in your mind to the following graphs.  And since few people have any idea what those units mean, we helpful people try to present them in more-familiar terms (deg C) as well.

The reality-impaired wing of the catastrophic human-induced climate change movement doesn’t like it when we present data in familiar terms.  They claim silly things like we don’t want our readers to know data indicate the oceans are absorbing heat. Again, see the archived version of the post here.  What’s really strange about that is, if you were to do a Google Image search of “NODC ocean heat content” the vast majority of the images presented by Google are those I prepared for my blog posts and the posts at WattsUpWithThat. In Figure 1, I’ve highlighted all of the illustrations I prepared or that were prepared by others and included in my posts that show up on a screen cap.

Figure 1

Figure 1

To me, it doesn’t look like I’m trying to hide the fact the oceans have absorbed heat.  In fact, I’ve explained, using data, the naturally occurring processes that cause the oceans to warm at the surface and at depth. See the free illustrated essay “The Manmade Global Warming Challenge” (42MB).


Well, I came up with a very simple way to keep alarmists AND skeptics happy.  I’ve presented the NODC ocean heat content data in terms of Joules*10^22 and the NODC vertically averaged temperature data in terms of deg C—ready for this?—on the same graph. See Figure 2.  In it, the data have been zeroed at 2005.

Figure 2 Tempering Effect of Ocean on Global Warming

Figure 2

The caption for it and Figure 3 reads, A hypothetical energy imbalance resulting from the emissions of manmade greenhouse gases has caused the oceans to absorb heat from 2005 to 2013 at a rate of about 8.6*10^22 Joules/decade, according to the NODC data for the depths of 0 to 2000 meters, but due to the heat capacity of the oceans, the oceans for those same depths have only warmed at a rate of about 0.03 deg C/decade, also according to NODC data.

For those who would prefer the NODC data to not be zeroed at 2005, see Figure 3.

Figure 3 Tempering Effect of Ocean on Global Warming

Figure 3

Again, the warming rate illustrated in Figure 2 and 3 is only +0.03 deg C/decade. Let me repeat a portion of yesterday’s post:

That’s read 3 one-hundredths of a deg C per decade, which is a very tiny warming rate.  It would be even tinier if we had data for the oceans from the surface to the ocean floor.

The oceans are deeper than the 2000 meters reached by the ARGO floats.  So we have to look elsewhere to see if the deep oceans below 2000 meters have warmed. The title of Llovel et al. (2014) explains the findings of the paper Deep-ocean contribution to sea level and energy budget not detectable over the past decade.  “Not detectable” says it all. Phrased differently, there has been no detectable warming of the deep ocean (below 2000 meters) from January 2005 to December 2013, the time period covered by Llovel et al. (2014), which happily coincides to the period we’re discussing.

From the NOAA OceanToday webpage Deep ARGO, we learn that the depths of 0-2000 meters include only about one-half of the volume of the global oceans.

Based on those findings, we can assume the trend in the temperature of the oceans, from surface to ocean floor, from 2005 to present, is one-half the +0.03 deg C/decade trend calculated for the depths of 0-2000 meters, or a warming rate of +0.015 deg C/decade. That’s read 15 one-thousandths of a deg C per decade.

That minuscule warming rate of the oceans serves only as the background for the surface warming.  It can’t magically come back to haunt us.


I want thank Miriam O’Brien (Sou) from HotWhopper. Without her nonsensical response, I would not have come up with the idea for this post. Now, in the not-too-distant future, every time someone performs a Google Image search of “Tempering Effect of the Oceans on Global Warming”, or some derivative thereof, they’ll see Figures 2 and 3 from this post…and read the all-important caption.

(Sarc on.) I’d like to also thank the always-helpful William Connolley of Wikipedia fame and the blog Stoat for trying to post my full name and address on that thread at HotWhopper. A special thanks to Mariam O’Brian for leaving the U.S. Copyright Office website address for my book Who Turned on the Heat?  (On sale for only U.S.$5.00.) Now global warming skeptics from all around the world can easily find my name, address, phone number and email address.  When they’re in the neighborhood, they can take me out for a cup of coffee*. Or those who have always wanted to tip me for my work, but didn’t want to use PayPal, can now send me checks by mail.  How convenient! (Sarc off.)

*PS: Please call first.

*PPS:  Skeptics can also use my new-found home address to send me Christmas cards

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UPDATE:  The following is a screen cap of a Google Image search (from the morning of December 1, 2014, a day after this post was originally published): The Tempering Effect of the Oceans on Global Warming

Google Image Search Tempering Effect of Oceans on Global Warming

That didn’t take long. Never does.  As I wrote above… every time someone performs a Google Image search of “Tempering Effect of the Oceans on Global Warming”, or some derivative thereof, they’ll see Figures 2 and 3 from this post…and read the all-important caption.

Once again, thank you, Sou (Miriam O’Brien).  Someday Miriam will figure out she’s helping skeptics, not hurting them.  Will that stop her rants?   I think not.  It will simply make her madder.

UPDATE 2:  Believe it or not, this is one of the posts that Sou (Miriam O’Brien) has chosen to comment on at HotWhopper. See my post Miriam O’Brien says: Warmer oceans matter.  It includes an archived version of her painfully flawed rebuttal. Miriam has also given me another idea for a post on ocean warming.

About Bob Tisdale

Research interest: the long-term aftereffects of El Niño and La Nina events on global sea surface temperature and ocean heat content. Author of the ebook Who Turned on the Heat? and regular contributor at WattsUpWithThat.
This entry was posted in CAGW Proponent Arguments, More On Series. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to The Tempering Effect of the Oceans on Global Warming

  1. Centinel2012 says:

    Reblogged this on Centinel2012 and commented:
    Its always good to look at facts rather than propaganda!

  2. xyzzy11 says:

    There was a section of comments on your post at WUWT (started by Genghis) about whether carbon dioxide IR has the ability to raise the temperature of the oceans.

    He says:
    “The top couple of microns of the ocean surface is totally opaque to long wave radiation (atmospheric radiation) so 100% of greenhouse radiation will be absorbed there.”

    I agree, but I’m not 100% sure. Is this, in fact, the case?

  3. Bob Tisdale says:

    Hi xyzzy11. Let me give a qualified yes. Infrared radiation can only penetrate the top few millimeters of the ocean surface, and the ocean “skin” is where evaporation takes place. As a result, much of the additional infrared radiation from manmade greenhouse gases should lead to additional evaporation. Any “leftover” additional warming at the skin from the increased infrared radiation would contributed to the warming of the mixed layer of the oceans. I’ve looked but I can’t find any evidence of those “leftovers”.


  4. Thanks, Bob. What a clear view of the ocean!
    We call this planet “Earth”, when in reality it is planet ocean.

  5. earwig42 says:

    Sou (Miriam O’Brien) The gift (to skeptics) that keeps on giving.
    Could you extend the graph in figure 3, as a “projection” out to the year say 3000? would that be interesting?

  6. Streetcred says:

    Why the greenhouse gas “missing heat” cannot be hiding in the oceans

    A new post from the New Zealand Climate Conversation Group explains the physics on why low energy/long wavelength infrared radiation from greenhouse gases cannot penetrate nor heat the oceans, and only causes evaporative skin surface cooling. This inconvenient truth has been swept under the rug for years since an expedition 10 years ago set out to find out how much the oceans could heat from IR radiation from greenhouse gases, and found such an astoundingly negligible amount that a paper has never been published on this inconvenient data.

  7. Sig Silber says:

    “When they’re in the neighborhood, they can take me out for a cup of coffee*”.

    Or go watch the Eagles soar.

    I used to hang out around there before I moved to New Mexico.

    You may or may not be correct but one can learn a lot from you. That other web site is fairly redundant to the IPCC AR5 WGI which is a lot better organized.

    I very much enjoy everything you write. i learn a lot from you. .

  8. Bob Tisdale says:

    Thanks, Sig. It’s a pretty old town. Kayaking, I get a close-up view of ospreys, cousins of those eagles.


  9. Bob Tisdale says:

    Thanks for the link, Streetcred. I’ll work it into an upcoming post.

  10. Canadian Climate Guy says:

    Reblogged this on Canadian Climate Guy.

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