When climate change predictions go wrong – ocean warming by 40%

Climate change predictions based on science, historical data, and models are always going to be a work in progress on subject to corrections. Some will eventually be found to have overstated possible effects, while it is just as likely that some will be found to have understated effects.

Observations claim that ocean warming has been hapening at a much faster rate than what was predicted in the 2013 U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report.

Axious:  Ocean heat is climbing 40% faster than thought

New, independent observations from ocean buoys and other data sources show Earth’s oceans are warming at a rate that’s about 40% faster than indicated in the 2013 U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report.

Why it matters: The study, published Thursday in the journal Science, resolves a key uncertainty in climate science by reconciling analyses from a variety of different scientific teams.

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The oceans are absorbing about 93% of the extra heat going into the climate system. So far, most of that heat resides in the upper ocean, and is only slowly diffusing down into deeper waters. Faster warming is already resulting in tangible, harmful impacts, from coral bleaching across the Great Barrier Reef to rapidly intensifying hurricanes.

  • Scientists describe the ocean as having a “long memory,” meaning that the heat going into the waters now will continue to be released long after humans cut greenhouse gas emissions (assuming we do take that course).

This may be adjusted again more observations are made and as more data is accumulated, but it does suggest real cause for concern.

The rate of change of acceleration of warming could as easily have been predicted too low as too high, but it seems that as the science progresses, the majority of concerns increase.

The study:  How fast are the oceans warming?

Climate change from human activities mainly results from the energy imbalance in Earth’s climate system caused by rising concentrations of heat-trapping gases. About 93% of the energy imbalance accumulates in the ocean as increased ocean heat content (OHC). The ocean record of this imbalance is much less affected by internal variability and is thus better suited for detecting and attributing human influences (1) than more commonly used surface temperature records. Recent observation-based estimates show rapid warming of Earth’s oceans over the past few decades (see the figure) (12). This warming has contributed to increases in rainfall intensity, rising sea levels, the destruction of coral reefs, declining ocean oxygen levels, and declines in ice sheets; glaciers; and ice caps in the polar regions (34). Recent estimates of observed warming resemble those seen in models, indicating that models reliably project changes in OHC.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fifth Assessment Report (AR5), published in 2013 (4), featured five different time series of historical global OHC for the upper 700 m of the ocean.

Since then, the research community has made substantial progress in improving long-term OHC records and has identified several sources of uncertainty in prior measurements and analyses (268).

shii et al. (6) completed a major revision of their estimate in 2017 to account for the previous underestimation and also extended the analysis down to 2000 m and back to 1955.

All four recent studies (261011) show that the rate of ocean warming for the upper 2000 m has accelerated in the decades after 1991 to 0.55 to 0.68 W m−2 (calculations provided in the supplementary materials).

Studies, not models.

The ensemble average of the models has a linear ocean warming trend of 0.39 ± 0.07 W m−2 for the upper 2000 m from 1971–2010 compared with recent observations ranging from 0.36 to 0.39 W m−2.

The relatively short period after the deployment of the Argo network in the early 2000s has resulted in superior observational coverage and reduced uncertainties compared to earlier times. Over this period (2005–2017) for the top 2000 m, the linear warming rate for the ensemble mean of the CMIP5 models is 0.68 ± 0.02 W m−2, whereas observations give rates of 0.54 ± 0.02 (2), 0.64 ± 0.02 (10), and 0.68 ± 0.60 (11) W m−2. These new estimates suggest that models as a whole are reliably projecting OHC changes.

The fairly steady rise in OHC shows that the planet is clearly warming. The prospects for much higher OHC, sea level, and sea-surface temperatures should be of concern given the abundant evidence of effects on storms, hurricanes, and the hydrological cycle, including extreme precipitation events (315). There is a clear need to continue to improve the ocean observation and analysis system to provide better estimates of OHC, because it will enable more refined regional projections of the future. In addition, the need to slow or stop the rates of climate change and prepare for the expected impacts is increasingly evident.


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  1. Alan Wilkinson

     /  11th January 2019

    Spencer points out the rate of increase is less than 0.04 degrees C/decade (which seems to be deliberately obscured by the report focusing on heat content instead.

    Cue: ad hominem melt-down from Griff.

    • Griff.

       /  11th January 2019

      Que rolling around on the floor laughing at the whacko you follow.
      I have pointed out often enough that following a creationist nutbar who has an incredibly long history of having his work corrected by others for basic errors is a fail.

      You have a higher degree in engineering I believe Alan .
      Care to give a a comparison between the specif heat content of water and that of air
      and an approximation of the effect of that amount of energy going into the atmosphere as apposed to going into the oceans ?
      If you did so honestly the result would terrify you.
      All terrestrial life would be cooked alive in a few minutes.

      • Pink David

         /  11th January 2019

        Griff, it’s kind of sad that you completely fail to see the fundamental flaw in your little exercise. It really is a mark of a complete amateur to think they can understand something as a static and not as a dynamic when to comes to complex systems.

        • Griff.

           /  11th January 2019

          Ah yes
          Pink makes a claim yet fails totally to back it with any content .
          AKA empty insulation
          Never seen that before

          • Griff.

             /  11th January 2019


          • Pink David

             /  11th January 2019

            Your not interested in facts. I have given you the ‘content’, look at the system, not the static situation. You do not because you don’t understand it, and it doesn’t suit your ideological position.

            A fundamental question, is climate fail safe, or is it inherently unstable?

            • Griff.

               /  11th January 2019

              The comment by Alan I replied to has a time function so my question to him was not “static”.

              A fundamental question, is climate fail safe, or is it inherently unstable?

              Neither .
              It responds to exterior forcing.
              If the forcings stay the same climate would stay within equilibrium range.
              Marcott et al., 2013
              Long term we see the rise from glaciation due to initally to Milankovitch Cycles and feed back from temperature dependent changes in atmospheric CO2 content.
              Followed by a long slow decline into the next glaciation.
              Halted by our uncontrolled experiment with atmospheric physics

            • Pink David

               /  11th January 2019

              “The comment by Alan I replied to has a time function so my question to him was not “static”.”

              It is absolutely a static question.

              “Neither ”

              That is not possible. If it is not fail safe (revert to mean), it is inherently unstable by definition.

      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  11th January 2019

        That’s more wrong than most of your efforts, Griff. I was a scientist, not an engineer. If the ocean wasn’t absorbing heat it would be reflecting it back into space. It acts as a moderator of atmospheric temperature via its heat capacity and ability to redistribute heat via its currents and via evaporation. None of that obviates the fact that ocean warming has been minimal.

        • Griff.

           /  11th January 2019

          Hello pinky
          I gave you evidence ‘you give me gibbering .
          Empty assertions have no value .
          Weather is the distribution of energy around the earth.
          Climate is the probability of weather over time .
          Without changing the energy available for weather you see no change in climate.

          • Pink David

             /  11th January 2019

            “I gave you evidence ‘you give me gibbering .
            Empty assertions have no value .”

            As I have said, you have not interest in facts. You have an ideological nail to hit, and you just keep’on banging.

            • Griff.

               /  11th January 2019

              You make assertions and call them facts .
              Thats not how it works mate.

              As I have said, you have not interest in facts. You have an ideological nail to hit,

              I do so love naked psychological projection
              My position is informed by the worlds scientific community.
              Yours is based on ignorance and your rejection of climate science due to reality clashing with your ideology and avoidance of the cognitive dissonance integrating the two would engender..
              At a level suitable for your ability.
              You can not be a RWNJ and get real about climate science .

            • Pink David

               /  12th January 2019

              “You make assertions and call them facts .
              Thats not how it works mate.”

              This is very simple, a system is either fail safe, or it is inherently unstable. that is a fact, and that is how it works, mate. All you link posting and copy paste is simply a substitute for your own lack of knowledge.

              You are religious in your belief of climate change, only listening the the duly appointed priests and not able to make any judgements of your own. You can’t even accept a fact without consulting these priests. You judge people as ‘non-believers’ then allow yourself to heap abuse on them for the crime of denial.

              You do not know what my ideology is, nor even what my position on climate change is, you have simply too busy chasing your own strawmen to care.

              “Yours is based on ignorance and your rejection of climate science due to reality clashing with your ideology and avoidance of the cognitive dissonance integrating the two would engender..”

              Lets test this insight shall we? I think there is a degree of climate change due to human activity. Hard to see just how much, the science is highly mixed and far from conclusive. The important question is how much we extra we spend to mitigate what impact we are having. According to the IPCC report, the answer is not much. Given our current technological path, emissions will fall significantly naturally and we do not need to make additional sacrifices .

              We could make much faster progress with existing technologies, however those most vocal about the danger of climate change are also those most vocal about not using those technologies. That is clear evidence that climate change is simply not the major problem that those people claim it is.

              So, climate change is a possible problem with limited impacts that will largely be resolved as technology advances. That is what the science tells us.

          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  11th January 2019

            Actually you gave me gibbering, Griff, and I gave you reality. The atmosphere would never contain the same heat as the ocean because it would reach a temperature in which its radiation out balanced radiation in long before that. So your comment was completely irrelevant.

            Yes, temperature is a measure of retained energy. That’s as far as your comment was relevant. My point is that most people understand temperature change and can put it into perspective much more easily than energy content in zettajoules. And when you look at the temperature change it is very small and slow.

        • Griff.

           /  11th January 2019

          The average change in temperature for oceans with an average depth of 2km is minimal. it will take century’s to warm the entire ocean at depth as overturning of the deep oceans is a process that takes place over millennium.The energy this warming represents is more than enough to rise the surface temperatures above 100C .

          What Dr Woy is not telling you in his normal misdirection targeted at the gullible suckers who read his crap.
          Warming in the top 100 meters or so that directly effects our weather is far higher.

          The interesting thing for someone informed by actual scientists is greater heat going into the oceans suggests a higher climate sensitivity.
          This would be confirmed even by cranks who worship Dr Roy Spencer Phd by reference to his papers on sensitivity and substituting this updated ocean heat content value.

  2. Zedd

     /  11th January 2019

    Isnt there a saying about ‘put a live frog in a pot of cold water & increase the temperature slowly.. it wont notice it until it starts to cook’ ??

    I saw a news item yesterday, about lots of dead fish (1mil ?) in the murray/darling river in Aust. They said that ‘it could be a result of C-C ?’ BUT the ‘officials’ are still debating/disputing it ! 😦

    • High Flying Duck

       /  11th January 2019

      There is much conjecture as to whether it is drought or as a result of a cotton milling opening up and diverting gigalitres of water from the river and adding pollutants.
      The Hemp industry is making a big play that their product is far less resource intensive and should replace the cotton industry.
      But take your choice Zedd:
      1. It’s climate change! – the world must become a socialist paradise to combat this existential threat!
      2. It’s the National Government water polices! Vote them out and install the socialists so we can live in paradise!

  3. Duker

     /  11th January 2019

    have I missed something or is this paper
    How fast are the oceans warming?

    Not a peer reviewed in the normal way , but just an ‘article’ in Sciences ‘Perspectives section ?

    On thats basis is it even ‘Science’

    • Griff.

       /  11th January 2019

      It references the peer reviewed papers it is based on
      it is also written by the authors of said papers.
      Authors Lijing Cheng1, John Abraham2, Zeke Hausfather3, Kevin E. Trenberth4

      references and Notes

      L. Cheng et al., Eos (Wash. D.C.) 98, 14 (2018).

      L. Cheng et al., Sci. Adv. 3, e1601545 (2017).

      K. E. Trenberth, A. Dai, R. M. Rasmussen, D. B. Parsons, Bull. Am. Meteorol. Soc. 84, 1205 (2003).

      M. Rhein et al., in Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, T. F. Stocker et al., Eds. (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2013), pp. 215–315.

      K. E. Taylor, R. J. Stouffer, G. A. Meehl, Bull. Am. Meteorol. Soc. 93, 485 (2012).

      M. Ishii et al., Sci. Online Lett. Atmos. 13, 163 (2017).

      T. Boyer et al., J. Clim. 29, 4817 (2016).

      J. P. Abraham et al., Rev. Geophys. 51, 450 (2013).

      P. Durack, P. J. Gleckler, F. Landerer, K. E. Taylor, Nat. Clim. Chang. 4, 999 (2014).

      C. M. Domingues et al., Nature 453, 1090 (2008).

      L. Resplandy et al., Nature 563, 105 (2018).

      S. Levitus et al., Geophys. Res. Lett. 39, L10603 (2012).

      M. A. Balmaseda, K. E. Trenberth, E. Källén, Geophys. Res. Lett. 40, 1754 (2013).

      G. C. Johnson, J. M. Lyman, S. G. Purkey, J. Atmos. Ocean. Technol. 32, 2187 (2015).

      K. E. Trenberth, L. Cheng, P. Jacobs, Y. Zhang, J. T. Fasullo, Earth’s Future 6, 730 (2018).

  4. Gerrit

     /  11th January 2019

    Meh, We are starting to catch MahiMahi in northern warmer waters and down south snapper are appearing as far south as Timaru.

    So what is not to like about ocean warming.

    Adept or perish. Fish know what to do. Adept.


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