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« Climate talking head to PPC | Main | Counter-sceptics »

A bodyguard of woo

In a leader just published, the Guardian is covering the plateau in global temperatures and is to be congratulated on telling half the story. That's considerably better than telling none of the story at all, as is its wont.

There is, however, a serious debate about why the observed temperatures have not kept pace with computer-modelled predictions and where the heat that should have registered on the global thermometer has hidden itself. One guess – supported by some sustained but still incomplete research – is that the deep oceans are warming: that is, the extra heat that should be measurable in the atmosphere has been absorbed by the sea. This is hardly good news: atmosphere and ocean play on each other, and any stored heat is likely to be returned to the atmosphere sooner or later, in unpredictable ways. The real lesson from the latest finding is that there is a lot yet to be understood about how the planet works, and precisely how ocean and atmosphere distribute warmth from the equator to the poles.

To describe the deep-ocean explanation for the hiatus as a guess seems reasonable to me. It is genuinely no more than that, although I think to be truly clear about it one would have to point out that it is somewhat implausible for the missing heat to have found its way to the deep ocean without being detected nearer the surface. Nevertheless, I think you do get a sense of the puzzlement of climatologists, so one should probably commend the Guardian for raising its game.

Of course one can't expect the whole article to be that good, and the Guardian appears to have adapted Winston Churchill's famous maxim somewhat, ensuring that its scientifically sensible statement is attended by a bodyguard of woo to keep its readers happy - referring to Australian floods and melting Arctic ice with none of the context that would allow the uninitiated to make sense of such statements.

But hey, let's recognise the progress.

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    Response: giam can nhanh
    - Bishop Hill blog - A bodyguard of woo

Reader Comments (83)

@David Chappell
"It's a question of whether or not a particular set of sensors can credibly measure the temperature of 160 billion olympic swimming pools."

Btw, by your standard of volumetric measurement it's about 80 billion swimming pools, as the Argo buoys don't measure below 2km down.

I spoke to one of the manufacturers on the list and they inform me that RTD probes are accurate to 0.03C in narrow band applications, so it's safe to assume the hardware can deliver the information.

The current probe distribution map is here

Carry on dissecting the Argo...

Sep 2, 2013 at 11:15 AM | Unregistered CommenterJabba the Cat

Entropic Man the deep ocean heat claims are based on a guess not what is known, and the need for this guess came about because the models failed to predict what happened in reality. No ‘hidden ‘heat claims would be needed if they actual been right in the first place.
And all of that rest on the ‘need’ for heat due to CO2 thanks to a failure of politics and the triumph of dogma over good science. The ‘settled ‘ science claim should never have been made in the first place , especially in an area with so many unknowns or issues poorly understood. But its feet to fire time now for all those that were so happy to insult and attack those that followed the correct scientific path and were sceptical . Suck it up.

Sep 2, 2013 at 11:56 AM | Unregistered Commenterknr

Entropic Man: Next you will be telling us there is a tropospheric hot spot. No wait...there is, but only in the fantasy world of climate scientists computer models. Perhaps they should do a "re-analysis" on that?

Re-analysis has to be the most bogus and pointless pseudo-science ever. What is the point on publishing a paper analysing the results of a virtual world model when you have no data to verify if the model is actually valid? Whatever happened to collecting data from the real world in order to validate a model?

Sep 2, 2013 at 11:58 AM | Unregistered CommenterThinkingScientist

I have some 30 years experience of reviewing ship's data and the problem is that ocean temperature is highly variable over short distances. If you have experience in diving you would know that ocean temperature can change significantly even over distances of just a few metres horizontally or vertically. Of course, the deep ocean is less variable, but when you are talking about 100ths of a degree slight variations matter.

As David Chappell suggests, ARGO simply lacks the spatial coverage. The point being made is that if you were to move an ARGO buoy by a mile or so, you would get a different temperature reading and if you were to move it once more by another mile or so, you would get a third different reading. We would not know what the temperature of the ocean was within 1000ths of a degree if we were to increase the ARGO coverage a million fold.

Further, ARGO is free floating and this presently makes the assessments of trends all but impossible since ARGO buoys are continuously floating with the currents which currents are themselves temperature and/or density influenced. This means that it is almost certainly the case that some bias will be introduced, whether this be a warming bias or a cooling bias, I do not know, As far as I am aware, no one has yet researched the extent of such bias and until this is done, it is not possible to infer a meaningful trend. It may well be the case that all one is viewing is the effect of the bias and there is in practice no real change in temperature.

ARGO is obviously useful but like all the data sets in Climate Science it has its issues (one of which was the readjustment made to it when it was showing ocean cooling and this correctness of this readjustment/recallibration is moot - see:, Perhaps the most obvious issues is its short duration and that it cannot be spliced onto the previous data set using ship measurements. You have one data set ending and another one beginning.

The real issue is not that the 'missing heat' has yet to be discovered in the oceans but rather 2 fundamental points. First, what is the so called basic physics of CO2 and its IR trapping characteristics which during the period say 1978 to 1997 cause it to heat the atmosphere but not the oceans, but which some how change so that as from 1998 onwards they do not cause heating of the atmosphere but rather heating of the oceans. What is the physics of this split personality, is it in the physics of CO2 itself, or is it in the physics of the atmosphere and if so which component? Second, any heat that has been sequestered into the deep ocean can never resurface to bite us. If the deep ocean was say 3degC but now due to the ongoing increase in CO2 is now 3.001degC if that water comes up to the surface it will cool the surface, not warm it and this is because water at 3.001degC is significantly cooler than the surface temperature. Any extra heat in the deep ocean is not a problem (albeit it may lead to a very slight expansion of the ocean and hence some sea level rise)

Sep 2, 2013 at 5:23 PM | Unregistered Commenterrichard verney

When considering the temperature of the deep oceans, it is apt to bear in mind one fundamental point, namely the deep ocean has been heated by the sun and by DWLWIR (if that does indeed heat the ocean) for some 4.5 billion years and notwithstanding alll the cummalive energy that it has received over this time, it is only just above freezing; the average temnperature being around 2degC.

One should perhaps also bear in mind that there were times when CO2 may have been in the region of 5000 to 8000ppm with correspondingly increased levels of DWLWIR..

The fact is that the deep ocean temperature is not going to change dramatically any time soon, and it is because the deep ocean is so cold that we have ice ages. If only the ocean had a uniform temperature throughout as warm as the surface, life would not have to endure the rigours of ice ages.

cAGW is over if the heat trapping/IR radiating properties of CO2 merely causes the deep ocean to warm slightly.

Sep 2, 2013 at 5:43 PM | Unregistered Commenterrichard verney

The real lesson from the latest finding is that there is a lot yet to be understood about how the planet works, and precisely how ocean and atmosphere distribute warmth from the equator to the poles.

Am I missing something here or isn't this pretty much what 'sceptics'/'deniers' (whatever this weeks term is) have been suggesting all along?

[TAO buoy data (Willis)]... The measurements showed that around noon, when cumulus usually form, the net effect of cloud cover (longwave minus shortwave) was a reduction of half a kilowatt per square metre in net downwelling radiative energy.

Back to the Grun ..("and precisely how ocean and atmosphere distribute warmth from the equator to the poles...")
The energy isn't missing ... it never arrived.

Sep 2, 2013 at 6:04 PM | Registered Commenterbh3x2

"what is the so called basic physics of CO2 and its IR trapping characteristics which during the period say 1978 to 1997 cause it to heat the atmosphere but not the oceans, but which some how change so that as from 1998 onwards they do not cause heating of the atmosphere but rather heating of the oceans. What is the physics of this split personality, is it in the physics of CO2 itself, or is it in the physics of the atmosphere and if so which component?"

This is exactly my point too. If no-one on the AGW side can answer it satisfactorily then the whole 'the heat's hiding in the oceans' concept is just a facade to hide the fact their primary theory has been utterly invalidated.

Sep 2, 2013 at 6:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterJim

michael hart

Thank you, Michael. That would make the thermal expansion 58% of the total 3.2mm/year sea level rise, or 1.86mm/year.

Each 1mm sea level rise requires 360cubic kilometres of extra volume. Thermal expansion is therefore contributing 668 cubic kilometres annually.

The volume of the oceans is 1.3 * 10^9 cubic kilometres, with a thermal expansion coefficient of 2.5 * 10^-4 K^-1 ( an approximation, for it increases with temperature and pressure).

An increase of 668cubic kilometres per year is the equivalent of an average ocean temperature increase of 2.05 * 10^-3 C per year

As a check on the figures, lets try coming from the other direction. The same temperature rise would require 5.07 * 10^21 Joules per year.

The increase in ocean heat content was measured by Balmasada et al as 10^23 J for the last thirty years. That comes out at 3.3 * 10^21J/year.

A ocean heat input of 5.07 * 10^21J/yr calculated from observed sea level rise; 3.3 * 10^21J/yr calculated from observed ocean heat content changes That's good agreement for a back-of-the-envelope calculation.

This is the same sort of check calculation you should be doing yourselves, rather than just believing what some spin-sceptic on a blog tells you.

Sep 2, 2013 at 6:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic Man


You seem very certain of those fractional temperature changes in the ocean measurements. Do you know how to allow for the "uncertainty" of those measurements?

Sep 2, 2013 at 6:34 PM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes

"the "uncertainty" of those measurements"


I work to three significant figures in calculations like these. That assumes that values for well measured quantities such as the volume of the oceans, the thermal expansion coefficient and the specific heat capacity are accurate to +/- 1%.

The sea level rise is 3.2 +/- 0.4mm/year. Thats +/- 12.5%.

Balmaseda et all quote a rate of heat uptake for the 2000s of 1.19 +/- 0.11 W/ M^2. That's an uncertainty of +/- 9.2%.

My two annual energy input figures differed by 1.74 when , in an ideal world, they should have been identical. That implies uncertainties of 5.07 +/- 0.87 and 3.3 +/- 0.87.

That's +/- 26% for the figure calculated from Balmaseda et al and +/- 17% based on michael hart's numbers.

Calculate confidence limits based on the uncertainties in the starting numbers and you get similar figures.

Sep 2, 2013 at 7:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic Man

Sep 2, 2013 at 7:52 PM | Entropic Man

Is there any other source of heat that may affect OHC?

Sep 2, 2013 at 8:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterBilly Liar

Just in case anyone was under some sort of cosy illusion that alarmists were coming over all reasonable, consider this latest gem from, yes, where else, The Guardian..?

"Climate change likely to steer away Sandy-like superstorms, study says..
Scientists predict stronger storms but say changing air patterns will prevent them from hitting US east coast"

It's as if they've compiled a list of the biggest obstacles to agw and have then set about producing a hit list, knocking off each sceptic point one by one.

Missing heat? Oh, it's at the bottom of the ocean!
No storms for 8 years? Oh, they won't make landfall any more - due to climate change!
Complete cobblers and truly pathetic.

Oh, and yet again no comments allowed on 'Comment is Free'.

Sep 2, 2013 at 9:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterCheshirered

Hi Entropic Man,

Great to see you back , hope you slept well.

Any thoughts on that re-analysis reference you cited? Any actual data measurements on ocean temperature profiles and deep ocean temperatures quoted in a paper that you would like to share with us?

In fact, as pointed out earlier on the thread, that re-analysis paper was on a computer model output of the ocean that had been fed flux data from another re-analysis. As Terry Pratchet might say, "its Turtles all the way down" in Kevin Trenberth's fantasy world of magical heat in places that no-one can find.

Sep 2, 2013 at 9:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterThinkingScientist

It is the models that predict heavy warming. If the models aren't in line with observations, they are wrong. If the models are wrong they can't tell us how much warming to expect. Why then is there a need to explain where this unknown quantity of heat has gone?

Sep 2, 2013 at 9:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterMartin A

See: Ask a BS spreader a straight question (yeah, I'm talking about you, EM) and he ducks it and comes back with even more BS - to "...three significant figures." (I have to say, that's pure quality BS).

In the meantime, my question to him/it remains unanswered, viz: How ya gonna fix it (CAGW)? And how will we know when you have? Until you answer those questions you're just as full of <snip snip snip>.

Sep 2, 2013 at 10:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterSnotrocket

Snotrocket, EM has not responded to my point about reanalysis either. Selective answers, no real substance.

Sep 2, 2013 at 10:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterThinkingScientist

Pathetic drivel and this is even nastier.

They couldn't contradict Pielke Jr, so they invented this

Climate change likely to steer away Sandy-like superstorms, study says

Sep 3, 2013 at 12:39 AM | Unregistered CommentereSmiff

Billy Liar

Insolation is the main energy input to the oceans. There's a smaller input from DWLWIR, warm fresh water from rivers and an even smaller input from volcanoes, hot springs and even the odd Watt from sea floor heating.


Look at the reference list at the end of Balmaseda et al. You will find the data sources they used. If you are a scientist you know how to do a reference search. Do not expect me to hold your hand like a first year undergraduate. I will help you a little.

This is additional material to accompany Balmaseda et al. It covers some of your questions. Come back with something more specific than a vague complaint about reanalysis.

Comments like "Kevin Trenberth's fantasy world of magical heat in places that no-one can find." are not usually worth a reply. In my 6.30 and 7.52 pm posts I provided two separate lines of evidence which agreed on the rate at which the oceans are accumulating heat. If your response is insult and ridicule, with no attempt at rational counter argument, why should you then expect sensible replies?


Straw man. I am not a Green expecting immediate doom. Unlike you I do expect changes large enough to be disruptive.

Solutions? Ask the politicians. I'm just describing the problem.


I'm the only opponent you have here willing to discuss the science. Nobody else thinks it worthwhile to waste much time on you. In the limited time I have available I prefer to stick to one thread if possible. If you want sensible discussion, remember that.

Sep 3, 2013 at 1:14 AM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic Man

Unfortunately EM posting a reference to a paper as evidence of something, when it is clear the paper is a re-analysis, and one based on heat flux from yet another re-analysis, is not going to cut it. Its the old RealClimate trick of arguing something has been "proven" by citing references that prove nothing of the sort. That Balsameda paper even has re-analysis in the title. Its classic Trenberth, claiming that the explanation for his missing heat is in the only place where we don't look. How did Trenberth's magical heat get through the 0 - 700 m ocean depth range without anyone noticing?

Show us some papers based on measurements of deep ocean heat, otherwise all you are doing is citing papers attempting to prove something with a model that has so many degrees of freedom you cannot prove anything at all. Trunk wiggling and all that.

Sep 3, 2013 at 6:34 AM | Unregistered CommenterThinkingScientist

" How did Trenberth's magical heat get through the 0 - 700 m ocean depth range without anyone noticing?"


Increased wind -driven vertical mixing plus conduction at greater depths. In the additional material I linked was a graph showing the strength of the trade winds in the Pacific. They intensified as the rate of OHC increased. Is there any point in giving you references when you dont read them?

iInotice you keep telling me Im wrong,but havent falsified my calculation. Part came from Balmaseda et al. Corroberation came independantly from some very basic physics.

Incidentally, what is your objection to a reanalysis when new data becomes available? You sound like a politician sticking to an old policy, long after new information has made it obsolete. This is neither thinking or science.

Sep 3, 2013 at 1:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic man

elephant seal behaviour is far more predictable than ARGO buoys......ARGO buoys have to be "re-analysed" to give the right results, so it is all worse than we thought.

Sep 3, 2013 at 10:45 PM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes

Many 10s of millions of years ago, the deeps were 17 K warmer than now. This was probably because the atmosphere was denser so lapse rate warming was higher.

This meant no ice caps so no deep cold water currents.

Sep 4, 2013 at 9:29 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlecM

Entropic Man: From your sentence "Incidentally, what is your objection to a reanalysis when new data becomes available?" it looks to me as though you have misunderstood what the term "reanalysis" mean in climate science speak.

In climate science speak, "reanalysis" is not re-analysing data, it means analysing the output of a computer program as though it were data from the real world. The answer you get is what the model says, not what the real world is actually doing. They cannot answer what the real world temperature trend in the deep oceans is doing...because they don't have any measurements down there. And if they do, well then EM show me the data.

The clues are in phrases like: "ORAS4 has been produced by combining, every 10 days, the output of an ocean model forced by atmospheric reanalysis fluxes and quality controlled ocean observations." and "Figure 1 shows the time evolution of the global OHC at different depth ranges (upper 300 m, upper 700 m and total column) as represented by the five ensemble members of ORAS4."

Tell me EM, what is an "ensemble average" in the real world of actual data measurements? And when you answer, try to remember that I do very large cell count 3D stochastic uncertainty modelling for a living as an earth science professional. In Balmaseda, they are mixing models and data and then trying to say the "ensemble average" of model runs is then what the deep ocean heat content is actually doing. They have no validation step whereby they compare a modelled prediction with actual independent data results. Show me that comparison and I'll read it, otherwise its virtual world climate science masturbation.

Actually the paper you referenced by Balmaseda et al is even worse than that because not only is it a "reanalysis" of the output of a computer model, but in this case the computer model has been fed the results of another reanalysis output from yet another computer model. Hence the allusion to Terry Pratchet's DiscWorld: "its turtles all the way down" earlier up the thread.

Sep 4, 2013 at 10:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterThinkingScientist

They have no validation step whereby they compare a modelled prediction with actual independent data results.

Sep 4, 2013 at 10:54 AM | ThinkingScientist

I think I did that myself.

Balmaseda' et al's final output from ther data analysis was a set of ocean heat content figures, showing warming over many years. From that I derived a rate of energy uptake.

I then derived a rate of energy uptake from the thermally induced rate of sea level rise. Within the likely range of uncertainty the two independant calculations agreed.

I did not need "very large cell count 3D stochastic uncertainty modelling". A-Level Physics sufficed.

Sep 5, 2013 at 12:26 AM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic Man

"show me the data."


Is this what you had in mind?

Sep 5, 2013 at 12:38 AM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic Man


Are you confusing reanalysis with simulation?

The reanalysis products I examined tonight are tools for showing existing raw data as descriptive output ; maps, graphs etc. They were doing data analysis to extract patterns and present them in a way that could be more easily understood. They do not generate fantasy. Balmaseda et al are doing reanalysis, not simulation. They are deriving energy content information from temperature readings.

Sep 5, 2013 at 12:49 AM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic Man

Entropic Man: You haven't answered my question. And a re-analysis is an analysis of the output of a computer model. Here again is the quote from the paper which I asked you to explain:

"Figure 1 shows the time evolution of the global OHC at different depth ranges (upper 300 m, upper 700 m and total column) as represented by the five ensemble members of ORAS4"

EM, tell me how you get to analyse "five ensemble members" from real world data.

EM, do you now what "ensemble members" are? (And no, they are not members of a small classical string group).

And just so we can make it really clear, read that other statement about what they did again "ORAS4 has been produced by combining, every 10 days, the output of an ocean model forced by atmospheric reanalysis fluxes and quality controlled ocean observations.

So when you are looking at the results, which part is model and which part real data? And how do you get "five ensemble members" from the real world?

EM, what are "ensemble members"?

Sep 5, 2013 at 8:25 AM | Unregistered CommenterThinkingScientist

EM: Your reference to "data" in the form of GODAS output has rather neatly proved my point. From the page at GODAS the detailed description is:

"A detailed description can be found here (pdf) from CPC. GODAS is a real-time ocean analysis and a reanalysis. It is used for monitoring, retrospective analysis as well as for providing oceanic initial conditions for the CFS. Both temperature and synthetic salinity profiles are assimilated in a 3DVAR scheme designed by Derber and Rosati (1989). 40 vertical levels are in the model together with 1x1 data values (enhanced in resolution to 1/3x1/3 degrees latitude within 10 degrees of the equator). The data is provided at 1/3x1/3 degrees for all latitudes. The GODAS is forced by the momentum flux, heat flux and fresh water flux from the NCEP atmospheric Reanalysis 2. It appears to reproduce observations quite well (see the references).

My bold. The GODAS is not raw data. Its a GCM. Yes, its got data going into it, but at the end of the day its a GCM coupled model. The output results are from a model that agrees with observations quite well. Which proves nothing, as these types of model have very significant non-uniqueness. I love the following comment in the linked pdf:

"First, the forward model has large warm biases in all ocean basins due to errors in model forcing and physics. Second, the forward model drifts away from initial conditions in Atlantic, probably due to simulation errors of thermohaline circulation. Third, the changes of observation network also contribute to discontinuity and trend in GODAS."

As I said EM, its turtles models all the way down.

Sep 5, 2013 at 11:02 AM | Unregistered CommenterThinkingScientist

And finally EM, in case you don't think that its models on models, the flux data going into the re-analysis comes from another re-analysis which is the NCEP Atmospheric Reanalysis 2. The link to the overview is:

This is yet another complex computational model. Its not data you are looking at, its the output of modelling based on data hence its called reanalysis. Reanalysis is a way of hiding the fact that this is not data they are examing but model output. Oodles of nonsense is spouted in all these studies and people such as yourself seem to fall for it everytime. Analysing model outputs forced by model outputs...but you still persist in thinking this stuff is actually real measurements.

Instead of playing with supercomputers climate scientists should have been advocating massive data collection and monitoring programs over the last 30 years. But hey, when did a climate scientist ever let data get in the way of a model?

Even gridding sparse data is a model.

Sep 5, 2013 at 2:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterThinkingScientist


At what point does data analysis become modelling?

Was my calculation of OHC rate of change from sea level rise a calculation, data analysis or a model?

Sep 5, 2013 at 4:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic Man

EM what you are calling "data" is the output of a model. This debate began with OHC. Balsameda analyses the output of models. How can you separate the part that is modelled from the data that constrained the model? Answer: you cannot. So drawing conclusions about ocean heating and the missing heat based on models is an absurd argument. Show me deep temperature data and I'll listen, until then it is what I said earlier: virtual world climate science masturbation.

Sep 5, 2013 at 7:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterThinkingScientist

My brother is an Instrument Mechanic (retired.) He explained to me the chain of calibration from him climbing up some ladder on a rig in the North Sea, all the way back to the NPL in Teddington. NPL was a place I visited on a school trip - we even managed to see the time standard itself. That visit stayed with me as engineer, the maintenance of a standard measure was still a variable, though one constrained to acceptable levels of error.

From a wind swept perch all along the chain, ever more expensive and accurate calibration equipment is used.

Without that chain, his hand held test gauge would be useless, no matter if it gave output to three significant figures.

This is little different to what Thinking Scientist is saying with computer models. You break that chain with reality and your left with a virtual world. You may take comfort from the readings it gives. May even immerse yourself in them.

But the chain has been broken. That world is imaginary.

Sep 6, 2013 at 2:32 AM | Unregistered CommenterJiminy Cricket

It is not oceans song i thing.but it is claimed that the temperature of the oceans .

Feb 15, 2014 at 2:17 AM | Unregistered CommenterPrivate Bodyguard

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