The Nonsensical “Just What AGW predicts” and Other Claims By Alarmists about “Record-High” Global Sea Surface Temperatures in 2014

Many of the visitors here at ClimateObservations and at WattsUpWithThat also spend time arguing with climate alarmists at other websites around the blogosphere.   With global sea surface temperatures at record high levels in 2014, the true-blue believers in the hypothesis of human-induced global warming are out in force.  This post will present data and other information to counter their claims.


We first discussed the possibility of record high sea surface temperatures back in the June sea surface temperature update.  Since then, we discussed the basic reasons for the warm global sea surfaces in many posts and, more recently, confirmed that sea surface temperatures in 2014 will likely be higher than the previous high in 1998.  Examples:

As discussed, the record high global sea surface temperatures in 2014 are primarily a response to a prolonged weather event in the North Pacific, like a blocking high.


A well-known alarmist chose to leave a comment on my blog here, in which he stated:

Global SSTs at record highs… Just what AGW predicts.

I not only responded to that comment on that thread, I’ve also elected to add a model-data comparison of sea surface temperatures to the start of my monthly sea surface temperature updates, starting with the most recent one for November 2014. It reads:

To counter the nonsensical “Just what AGW predicts” rantings of alarmists about the “record-high” global sea surface temperatures in 2014, I’m adding a model-data comparison of satellite-era global sea surface temperatures to the opening of these monthly updates.  See the example below.  The models are represented the multi-model ensemble-member mean of the climate models stored in the CMIP5 archive, which was used by the IPCC for their 5th Assessment Report. For further information on the use of the model mean, see the post here. For most models, historic forcings run through 2005 (2012 for others) and the middle-of-the-road RCP6.0 forcings are used after those years in this comparison.  The data are represented by NOAA’s Optimum Interpolation Sea Surface Temperature data, version 2—a.k.a. Reynolds OI.v2—which is NOAA’s best.   The model outputs and data have been shifted so that their trend lines begin at “zero” anomaly for the (November, 1981) start month of this dataset. That “zeroing” helps to highlight how poorly the models simulate the warming of the ocean surfaces…almost doubling the observed warming rate.  Both the Reynolds OI.v2 data and the model outputs of their simulations of sea surface temperature (TOS) are available to the public at the KNMI Climate Explorer.

Figure 000 000 – Model-Data Comparison

Linked here is an illustration that compares maps of the simulated and observed warming rates of the global oceans from 1982 to 2013.  It is from the post Maybe the IPCC’s Modelers Should Try to Simulate Earth’s Oceans. As soon as the December 2014 data are available, I will update that full-blown model-data comparison post.

[End blog reprint]

The illustration linked in the above paragraph is presented in Figure 1. As shown, the climate models used by the IPCC do not come close to replicating the observed spatial patterns of ocean warming.

Figure 1

Figure 1

Now, every time someone visits my website via a search engine to confirm the record high sea surface temperatures in 2014, they are first going to see that model-data comparison graph, with the pathetic model performance. The climate science community has one alarmist to thank for it.


The spatial patterns of ocean surface warming are one of the primary influences of climate (temperature and precipitation) on land.  See the TAMU webpage The Ocean’s Influence on North American Drought.

Also see Ruiz-Barradas, et al. (2013) “The Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation in Twentieth Century Climate Simulations: Uneven Progress from CMIP3 to CMIP5.”  The full paper is here.  At the beginning of their “Concluding Remarks” they explain why it’s important for climate models to be able to accurately simulate the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (my boldface):

Decadal variability in the climate system from the AMO is one of the major sources of variability at this temporal scale that climate models must aim to properly incorporate because its surface climate impact on the neighboring continents. This issue has particular relevance for the current effort on decadal climate prediction experiments been analyzed for the IPCC in preparation for the fifth assessment report. The current analysis does not pretend to investigate into the mechanisms behind the generation of the AMO in model simulations, but to provide evidence of improvements, or lack of them, in the portrayal of spatiotemporal features of the AMO from the previous to the current models participating in the IPCC. If climate models do not incorporate the mechanisms associated to the generation of the AMO (or any other source of decadal variability like the PDO) and in turn incorporate or enhance variability at other frequencies, then the models ability to simulate and predict at decadal time scales will be compromised and so the way they transmit this variability to the surface climate affecting human societies.

The only way they could have been clearer would have been to state point blank that climate models will have value only if they are ever able to simulate the decadal and multidecadal characteristics of natural ocean processes.  Ruiz-Barradas, et al. (2013) then describe the many problems with climate model simulations of the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation.  The paper ends with:

The current analysis does not provide evidence on why the models perform in the way they do but suggests that that the spurious increase in high 10–20 year variability from CMIP3 to CMIP5 models may be behind the unsatisfying progress in depicting the spatiotemporal features of the AMO. This problem, coupled with the inability of the models to perturb the regional low-level circulation, the driver of moisture fluxes, seem to be at the center of the poor representation of the hydroclimate impact of the AMO.

In Ruiz-Barradas, et al. (2013), “hydroclimate” appears to mean the variations in precipitation as they relate to drought.  They write:

Decadal control of hydroclimate from the AMO over North America and Africa is one of the main reasons to worry about having this phenomenon properly incorporated in climate models. Multi-year, summer and fall droughts over North America and Africa have been observationally linked to decadal SST variability in the Atlantic (e.g., Enfield et al. 2001; Ruiz-Barradas and Nigam 2005; Wang et al. 2006; Zhang and Delworth 2006; McCabe et al. 2008; Shanahan et al. 2009; Kushnir 2010; Nigam et al. 2011).

Some of you may recognize that discussion of Ruiz-Barradas, et al. (2013).  It’s from my ebook Climate Models Fail.

Bottom line:  Until climate models can simulate the observed warming spatial patterns, and the observed multidecadal variations in sea surface temperatures, they have no hope of being able to simulate climate on continental land masses.


We’ve already seen comments around the blogosphere to the effect of “high sea surface temperatures in the North Pacific indicate the increase in ocean heat is coming back to haunt us”.

That nonsense is contradicted by data. We only have reasonably complete and reasonably realistic measurements of subsurface ocean temperatures for the past decade or so, all thanks to the ARGO program.  The vertically averaged subsurface temperature data from the NODC, Figure 2, for the extratropical North Pacific (20N-65N, 100E-90W), for the depths of 0-700 meters and 0-2000 meters, both show a negative trend, and that means the extratropical North Pacific from the surface to depths of about 1.25 miles have cooled slightly, not warmed, since the ARGO floats have been in place.

Figure 2

Figure 2

Figure 2 is from the “Timmermann and Trenberth” post.


The recently released El Niño Outlook at JMA contradicts the idea that 2014 is not an El Niño year.   The bullet-pointed summary there reads (my boldface):

  • El Niño conditions are present in the equatorial Pacific, although the atmospheric conditions does not indicate clear features of El Niño events.
  • It is likely that El Niño conditions will continue through winter.
  • A weak El Niño event is considered to have persisted since the Northern Hemisphere summer.

Unlike NOAA, JMA uses the NINO3 region (5S-5N, 150W-90W) as their indicator for El Niño conditions this year. They write:

Five-month running mean of the NINO.3 SST deviation was +0.5C or above for four consecutive months from June to September, which means a weak El Niño event has persisted since the Northern Hemisphere summer.

Also, the December 10, 2014 update from JMA comes 6 days after the blog post Did ENSO and the “Monster” Kelvin Wave Contribute to the Record High Global Sea Surface Temperatures in 2014?  In that blog post, we illustrated a basic reality this year.  While the El Niño conditions barely surfaced until recently in the NOAA-preferred NINO3.4 region (5S-5N, 170W-120W), the sea surface temperatures of the tropical Pacific as a whole indicate a moderate El Niño has been taking place this year.


I added a caption to the model-data comparison that is sure to get responses from some people. It reads:

Climate models almost double the observed warming rate of the global ocean surfaces. Climate scientists are still looking for about 50% of the heat that is supposed to be stored in the oceans.  The “missing heat” and the doubling of ocean-surface warming suggest the model sensitivities are at least two-times too high.

I expect that the true-blue believers in human-induced global warming will, in response, cite the recent paper Durack et al (2014) Quantifying Underestimates of Long-Term Upper-Ocean Warming.  A preprint copy of the full paper is here, and the supporting online material is here.  That paper was discussed at WUWT here.  And the lead author’s webpage here includes some pretty graphics.

The abstract of Durack et al (2014) begins (my boldface):

The global ocean stores more than 90% of the heat associated with observed greenhousegasattributed global warming (Levitus et al., 2005; Church et al., 2011; Otto et al., 2013; Rhein et al., 2013). Using satellite altimetry observations and a large suite of climate models, we conclude that observed estimates of 0‐700 dbar global ocean warming since 1970 are likely biased low. This underestimation is attributed to poor sampling of the Southern Hemisphere, and limitations of the analysis methods that conservatively estimate temperature changes in data‐sparse regions (Gregory et al., 2004; Gouretski & Koltermann, 2007; Gille, 2008).

The statement “observed greenhouse‐gas‐attributed global warming” is nothing more than a clever regurgitation of climate science fallacy.  Warming of the oceans to depth has been observed, but climate models are used to attribute the warming to greenhouse gases.  Unfortunately for the climate-science community, it is well known that climate models cannot simulate naturally occurring coupled ocean-atmosphere processes that can cause ocean heat uptake over multiyear and multidecadal periods. We’ve been presenting and discussing that for many years. Most recently, see the discussion under the heading of “There Are Naturally Occurring Processes That Can Cause the Long-Term Warming of the Oceans to Depth” in the recent post Arguments For and Against Human-Induced Ocean Warming.

The next bold-face portion of the abstract is “Using satellite altimetry observations and a large suite of climate models…”.  We only have to look at the model-data comparison graph of global sea surface temperatures and the maps of observed and modeled warming rates from 1982 to 2013 presented early in this post to know that climate model simulations of ocean processes are fatally flawed.

The final bold-faced portion reads “This underestimation is attributed to poor sampling of the Southern Hemisphere…”.  There should be no doubt the temperatures and salinity of the Southern Hemisphere oceans to depth are poorly sampled.  Even the IPCC is very clear about this. (See the post AMAZING: The IPCC May Have Provided Realistic Presentations of Ocean Heat Content Source Data.)  But the authors of Durack et al (2014) are conveniently overlooking a few other things.

First, climate models are biased toward the Northern Hemisphere in an attempt to have them better simulate the loss of sea ice in the Arctic (See Swanson (2013) “Emerging Selection Bias in Large-scale Climate Change Simulations.”), but climate models still do a poor job of simulating the loss of Arctic sea ice (See Stroeve, et al. (2012) “Trends in Arctic sea ice extent from CMIP5, CMIP3 and Observations” [paywalled]).

Second, because of the models are biased toward the Northern Hemisphere in an attempt to recreate the higher warming rates there, the climate models almost triple the observed warming rate of the surfaces of the Southern Hemisphere oceans.  See Figure 3.

Figure 3

Figure 3

If climate models can’t come close to simulating the observed warming rates and patterns of the ocean surfaces, where the ocean-atmosphere processes are better understood, then climate models lack any credible foundation in their attempts to simulate the ocean heat uptake to ocean depths.  In terms that are more basic, if the models cannot properly simulate the processes that cause the warming of ocean surfaces, it is extremely naive to assume the models would then be able to simulate ocean warming to depth.


For nearly six years, we’ve discussed how weather events can lead to long-term warming of the oceans—at the surface and at depth.  The unusual warming in the extratropical North Pacific is just another example.

Hopefully, the above will provide you with enough basic support material to help you counter the alarmist nonsense that is sure to come in the near future.


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.
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21 Responses to The Nonsensical “Just What AGW predicts” and Other Claims By Alarmists about “Record-High” Global Sea Surface Temperatures in 2014

  1. omanuel says:

    Thanks, Bob, for your efforts to keep the public in contact with reality.

    The Geophysics Sections of NAS and RS apparently constructed a giant Matrix of Deceit as part of a social geo-engineering experiment on the inhabitants of planet Earth in 1945 in order to save the world from possible nuclear annihilation.

    More details posted on Steven Goddard’s blog

  2. Bob Tisdale says:

    Thanks for your compliment, omanuel. Regarding the rest of your comment, I do not want your conspiracy theories posted here, or links to them. Thus the snip.


  3. Thanks, Bob.
    From The Tropical Meteorology Project:
    (Dr. Philip J. Klotzbach, Dr. William M. Gray. Colorado State University – CSU)
    Qualitative Discussion of Atlantic Basin Seasonal Hurricane Activity for 2015
    (.pdf, 11 December 2014):
    We believe that we are still in an active era for Atlantic basin tropical cyclones since 1995 (despite the quiet seasons that occurred in 2013-2014), and we expect that typical conditions associated with a positive Atlantic Multi-Decadal Oscillation (AMO) and strong thermohaline circulation (THC) will return in 2015. One of the big challenges for 2015 is whether or not the currently developing weak El Niño will persist through the 2015 hurricane season. While we saw a significant weakening of the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO) and thermohaline circulation (THC) during the spring of 2014, North Atlantic SST and sea level pressure patterns have since rebounded to conditions characteristic of an active era. We anticipate that the 2015 Atlantic basin hurricane season will be primarily determined by the strength of the THC/AMO and by the state of ENSO.
    For the 2015 hurricane season, we anticipate four possible scenarios with the probability of each as indicated:
    1. THC circulation becomes unusually strong in 2015 and no El Niño event occurs (resulting in a seasonal average net tropical cyclone (NTC) activity of ~ 180) – 10% chance.
    2. THC continues in the above-average condition it has been in since 1995 and no El Niño develops (NTC ~ 140) – 40% chance.
    3. THC continues in above-average condition it has been in since 1995 with the development of a significant El Niño (NTC ~ 75) – 40% chance.
    4. THC becomes weaker and there is the development of a significant El Niño (NTC ~ 40) – 10% chance.

  4. Bob Tisdale says:

    Thanks for the links, Andres and thebackslider.


  5. Bernd Palmer says:

    Bob, I admire your work, because not only your work is based on real (hopefully not contaminated) data, but also because your deductions and interpretations seem to be of infallible logic.
    Why don’t we see this kind of work being published from “real” scientists who are paid for their job? Are they afraid of being rejected by the “team”?

  6. Pingback: December 2014 Sea Surface Temperature (SST) Anomaly Update | Bob Tisdale – Climate Observations

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  20. Pingback: January 2016 Sea Surface Temperature (SST) Anomaly Update | Bob Tisdale – Climate Observations

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