The old man and the warming ocean
One of the bunnies in the comments, pointed Eli to a posting by Josh Willis of JPL (and the ARGO floats) which provides as good an explanation of variability as the Rabett has seen. Go read it:
My wife likes to gamble. She’s no high roller or anything, but give her a hundred dollars, a spare weekend and a room full of slot machines and she’s happy.
but the real fun is in the comments, where RPSr drops by to beat his drum
Not me, though. Somewhere along the way, I guess I took one too many math classes and betting against the house just isn’t much fun anymore.
But I understand why she likes it. It’s the ups and downs of gambling that are fun. You lose, lose, lose and then every once in a while you win a great big jackpot. Maybe you even win enough to make up for the last 30 or 40 bets you lost. But like any game in the casino, the odds are stacked against you. If you play long enough, you will eventually lose.
Global warming and climate change work in much the same way. Wait long enough and odds are, the Earth will be warmer. But will tomorrow be warmer than today? Who knows! There are plenty of things about the atmosphere and ocean that can’t be predicted. Over a period of days or weeks, we call these unpredictable changes “the weather.”
I am puzzled by your weblog, and have weblogged on it. You are ignoring the value of heat in Joules (not surface temperature) as the primary global warming metric, despite your pioneering research using heat content change in Joules in the upper ocean to diagnose the radiative imbalance of the climate system..Willis' answer is classic
Very much in the tradition of if we had such measurements we would use them, but we don't so why are you asking for them.
True, ocean heat content is the better metric for global warming, and the past few years of no warming are interesting. But tacked on to the 50-year-record of ocean warming before that, the last four years pretty much ARE just a wiggle. And yes, the estimates of global surface temperature do have errors and uncertainties. But the record of sea surface temperature also shows about 1 degree C of warming over the last 100 years. Remember, the oceans are 2/3 of the Earth’s surface and that record has fewer problems than the temperature data over land. Between the long-term records of ocean heat content, land and ocean surface warming, global sea level rise (about 20 cm over the last 100 years) and the increase in atmospheric CO2, you get a pretty simple, consistent picture of man-made warming. No models required.
Of course, the data are not perfect. Our understanding and our climate models are missing important pieces of the puzzle. But let’s not miss the forest for the trees. You don’t have to count every tree around before you realize you’re in the woods, just like a casino doesn’t have to win every bet to turn a profit.
Despite all the uncertainties, I think it is pretty clear that humans have already warmed the planet. And if we continue to add more CO2 to the atmosphere, we will warm it even further.
UPDATE: The readers remind Eli to point them to the earth observatory article explaining how the interplay of measurement and models strengthen each other and allow a better understanding of oceanic warming and sea level rise.
Fill the comments young hares.