NODC Data Continue to Indicate the Deep Oceans are Warming in Some Basins But Not Others

UPDATE:  I forgot to note that the data in Figure 1 have been zeroed at the year 2003.  That was done to simplify the illustration.
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The National Oceanographic Data Center (NODC) recently updated their ocean heat content and vertically averaged temperature data for the oceans to depths of 2000 meters.  See the NODC data webpage here.  Alarmists are having a grand time trying to scare their readers with their chicken-little end-is-near proclamations. Example: see the post titled “The oceans are warming so fast, they keep breaking scientists’ charts” at SkepticalScience here and The Guardian here.  Also see Joe Romm’s post ‘Hottest Year’ Story Obscures Bigger News: Ocean Warming Now Off The Charts at ClimateProgress. 

Of course, the alarmists present the ocean heat content data, not the vertically averaged temperature data.  Why?  The oceans have an extremely large heat capacity, so a very slight increase in the temperature of the oceans to depths of 2000 meters represents a very large uptake of heat when placed in terms of 10^22 Joules…the units used by the NODC.  So to counter the alarmists, we present the NODC data in terms of deg C (data here), because people are more familiar with temperature.  We also break the data down into basins and subsets to show that the warming rates are not uniform, which is tough to explain with greenhouse gas-driven human-induced global warming.   So here’s a general introductory discussion of that NODC temperature data to depths of 2000 meters.

Reasonably complete temperature samples of all the ice-free oceans to the depths of 2000 meters (about 6600 feet or about 1.25 miles) have only been available for the past decade or so.  Those new sensors were deployed as part of the ARGO program in the early 2000s and did not have complete coverage of the oceans until about 2003.  The U.S. National Oceanographic Data Center (NODC) uses those temperature samples for a number of datasets, including their vertically averaged temperature data for the depths of 0 to 2000 meters.

Before the early 2000s, even the IPCC calls into question the usefulness of the sparse temperature measurements of the deep ocean. They note that before ARGO the data cannot be used for attribution studies.  In other words, because the data are so sparse, they cannot be used to determine the cause of the warming. Also see the post here. It shows how sparse the pre-ARGO data are.

As shown in Figure 1, the ARGO-era temperature data for those depths show the South Atlantic and Indian Oceans have warmed, while the North Atlantic and the largest ocean on our planet, the Pacific, show very little warming over the past 12 years.

Figure 1

Figure 1

The pie chart in Figure 2 helps to put that in perspective.  It illustrates the surface areas of the Indian, South Atlantic, North Atlantic and Pacific as percentages of their total surface area. (Source of the surface areas is here.) The North Atlantic and Pacific Oceans cover almost two-thirds of those oceans and they have warmed very little in 12 years to depths of about 2 kilometers (1.25 miles).   Now look again at the graph in Figure 1, this time concentrating on the scale of the vertical axis (y-axis) and on the listed warming rates.  For the South Atlantic and Indian Oceans, the warming rates measured in one-hundredths of a deg C/decade, while for the North Atlantic and Pacific, the trends are in one-thousandths of a deg C/decade.

Figure 2

Figure 2

Something else to consider: the raw ARGO-based temperature data don’t show that much warming.  The data have to be adjusted to show those warming rates.


The other problem:  manmade greenhouse gases are said to be well-mixed, meaning they’re spread pretty evenly above the Earth’s surface.  It’s difficult at best, therefore, to imagine how manmade greenhouse gases could be warming one-third of the oceans to depths of more than a mile but not the other two-thirds.

The other problem: I had explained the difference in the warming rates between the Indian and Pacific Oceans a number of years ago. See the discussion of Figures 19 and 20 and Animations 1 and 2 in the post Is Ocean Heat Content Data All It’s Stacked Up To Be? But because manmade greenhouse gases are said to be evenly mixed, the multi-model mean of the climate models used by the IPCC (for attribution studies and projections of future climate) show a relatively uniform warming of the oceans. Yet in the real world that is not the case. See the illustration here from Durach et al. (2014) Quantifying underestimates of long-term upper-ocean warming.  The multi-model mean basically represent how the oceans should have warmed if they were warmed by manmade greenhouse gases.  It’s difficult at best, therefore, to imagine how climate modelers will attempt to explain how manmade greenhouse gases could be warming one-third of the oceans to depths of more than a mile but not the other two-thirds when their models show a more uniform warming.


For more info on the problems with ocean heat content data see the post Is Ocean Heat Content Data All It’s Stacked Up to Be?


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 Ocean Depth Averaged Temperature, Ocean Heat Content Problems. Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to NODC Data Continue to Indicate the Deep Oceans are Warming in Some Basins But Not Others

  1. Thanks, Bob.
    I seems to me that the Pacific and North Atlantic dump heat into the Indian Ocean and the South Atlantic.

  2. gymnosperm says:

    Not only is any erratic distribution inconsistent with CO2 heating the oceans, the simple reality that radiation from CO2 molecules occurs at atmospheric temperature which is ALWAYS cooler than the ocean surface absolutely precludes CO2 radiative warming of the oceans. Unless you don’t believe the second law of thermodynamics.

  3. Greg says:

    this breakdown is very interesting, Bob.

    I have already linked the increase is SH SST rise to volcano induced changes in ozone. I did not find the same pattern clearly in global datasets . I think you have just explained why. 😉

  4. Pingback: Los océanos se están calentando tanto … que nunca lo podrás notar |

  5. Bill Hudson says:

    Bob: I wonder if focusing on the ocean regional patterns, both at the surface and in the various depths, is not an important breakthrough in the potential ability to forecast “teleconnections” between emerging climate patterns and the coming weather patterns affecting major crop regions? One thing I have learned from your two dozen El Nino/La Nina posts last year is that Annual patterns at Established geographies mean very little to teleconnections — that such episodes as the Calif drought or the 2012 cornbelt drought are much more prefigured by multi-year and multi-regional events (as if the entire sea basins can have diversities in them wherever they want, not just where we wish to assign and report indexes). Thus the academic climatology folks are intellectual prisoners of old and rigid ways of seeing, and that nature is multifarious indeed.

    Bill Hudson

  6. Alec aka Daffy Duck says:

    Just passing along a little news item I saw:

    A new study’s concludes that extreme La Nina events like this will become twice as likely in the future due to climate change.

    The study in Nature Climate Change found that the La Nina extreme weather — which happens about once every 23 years — will occur every 13 years by the end of this century, based on an analysis of 21 climate models. Three-quarters of those increased La Nina events would follow extreme El Nino events “thus projecting more frequent swings between opposite extremes from year to the next.”

    La Ninas, in their less extreme form, happen every two to seven years — the last one occurred in 2011 — when water temperatures in the Pacific Ocean near the equator dramatically cool. That inhibits the formation of rain clouds in the central-to-eastern equatorial Pacific but enhances precipitation in the western equatorial Pacific. El Nino events proceed them and are sparked by warmer than normal water in the equatorial Pacific.

  7. Bob Tisdale says:

    Thanks for the link, Alec aka Daffy Duck. I can’t find a new paper by those authors but I did find one from a year ago:

  8. Alec aka Daffy Duck says:

    A. Maybe they were just ‘recycling’, or
    B. Covering all bets on what might happen near term

  9. Werner Kohl says:

    Hi Bob,
    Have you already seen the publication “Increased frequency of extreme La Niña events under greenhouse warming”:

    It’s already reported in the German Journal “Bild der Wissenschaft”:
    and seems to be BS.


  10. Bob Tisdale says:

    Werner Kohl, of course it’s BS. Climate models can’t simulate basic ENSO processes!

    PS: Thanks for the link.

  11. Peter Foster says:

    Bob, I heard Dean Renwick in an interview recently making the argo data sound as if the warming was quite universal and something to be feared. The problem I have is that a few years ago when Craig Loehle presented the early ARGO data it showed general cooling of the oceans but now it has become a slight warming. I know that some years ago they removed the outlying colder reading buoys (but not the hotter ones) but that apparently did not remove the cooling trend. So how is it that now we have a warming trend? Is this data also being adjusted ?

  12. Bob Tisdale says:

    Peter, yes, the ARGO era data are being adjusted. Also, I believe the name you were looking for was Josh Willis, not Craig Loehle.

  13. Peter Foster says:

    Thanks for that Bob, do we know the extent or justification for the adjustments?

  14. Peter Foster says:

    Thanks for that info Bob,
    The way that I read it is that they cannot reconcile the thermal expansion aspect of the oceans, as determined by the increase in sea level, with the temperatures reported by the ARGO buoys. So they have adjusted the temperatures to fit the models coupled with the questionable sea level rise. Is that how you see it.
    If this is so then to me it is utterly wrong. Temperature is a direct and fundamental physical measurement. Sea level rise is derived from very complex situation where there is considerable disagreement among scientists. The satellite data is particularly questionable. A physicist would do the other way, take the temperature as real and question the sea level rise.

    Secondly, when the buoys send temperature /depth/ salinity data back, I presume the depth is calculated from pressure, in which case it would vary with both salinity and temperature . Is this what they now claim to correct for ? If so I would be very surprised if such corrections alone could vary in such a way as to change the entire slope of the trend from negative to positive.

  15. Bob Tisdale says:

    Peter, in response to your questions about interpretation, I would agree with you.

  16. Pingback: New Paper Tries to Explain Disparities in Deep Ocean Warming Between Two Basins | Bob Tisdale – Climate Observations

  17. Pingback: New Paper Tries to Explain Disparities in Deep Ocean Warming Between Two Basins | Watts Up With That?

  18. Canadian Climate Guy says:

    Reblogged this on Canadian Climate Guy.

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