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« Hope and change | Main | ‘Landmark consensus study’ is incomplete »
Tuesday
May282013

Tom Chivers on climate sensitivity

The Telegraph's Tom Chivers has joined the throng of journalists who have covered the low climate sensitivity story. His take, which is pretty level-headed, is here.

There are some gripes, however:

  • the suggestion that Otto is a an outlier - a single paper - is demonstrably nonsense. There are now many papers showing climate sensitivity less than 2°C.
  • the suggestion that the heat is all going into the oceans is at best only "possible". All the studies with low climate sensitivity take ocean heat uptake into account (or, in Forster and Gregory's case use a methodology that is unaffected by it). Trenberth's new suggestion that the heat is below 2 km depth in the deep ocean is at best speculative.

That said, it's not a bad piece at all and is well worth a look.

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Reader Comments (42)

It's a long way back from Moscow but Tom's started his withdrawal - another warmista climb down......... coming soon?

May 28, 2013 at 8:52 AM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.

Tom Chivers:

Climate change is by no means over ...

Indeed, by my own account we can expect some for another four billion years.

May 28, 2013 at 9:01 AM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

If heat is going into the ocean now, surely the second law of thermodynamics must apply. The inference is that this heat will in due course be released from the ocean to warm the atmosphere, but the atmosphere will have to be colder for this to happen. Does not make sense to me!

May 28, 2013 at 9:02 AM | Unregistered CommenterDylann

"The extra heat trapped by greenhouse gases is not, as once imagined, simply warming the atmosphere: the story is more subtle and complex than that. The heat is still there, but in the short term we don’t see it: it mostly warms the ocean."


"extra heat trapped by greenhouse gases"?

As BH commenter rhoda said in a discussion: CO2 can trap heat? That is a given, is it? Well, I thought it was not in dispute that CO2 absorbs radiation in some bands and emits it in another. Where is the trapped heat there

Now not only is atmospheric CO2 "trapping heat", it is trapping it in the ocean.

They make it up as they go along.

May 28, 2013 at 9:17 AM | Registered CommenterMartin A

It's really quite nauseating to see the true believers adjusting their belief system in public.

May 28, 2013 at 9:19 AM | Unregistered CommenternTropywins

Now not only is atmospheric CO2 "trapping heat", it is trapping it in the ocean.

They make it up as they go along.

Good point Martin A.

I want someone to explain that idea - CO2 is somehow trapping heat in the oceans???.


And then factor in the 'man made' CO2 component - that's gonna take a whole new generation of computers to sort out............[cue - insane giggles from senior Met office nomenklatura].

May 28, 2013 at 9:41 AM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.

This "single-study syndrome" appears to have been sourced by sks, but I notice a large number of press reports have taken it up.
There are at least 15 important papers in the last few years based on empirical evidence that suggest that best estimate of equilibrium climate sensitivity is below 2.0 .
This starts to look increasingly like an orchestrated damage control exercise. "There is no reason not to panic."

May 28, 2013 at 9:42 AM | Unregistered CommenterPaul_K

@nTropywins

It's not nauseating: it's what we always expected would happen. We were never going to get any Damascene convertions - that would be way too embarrassing. And there's no way anybody is ever going to apologise and publicly acknowledge that Watts, McIntyre, Linzen (and His Grace, of course) et al. were right all along and they were wrong - that's just not how human nature works. After years of stereotyping sceptics as Big-Oil-funded planet-raping deniers, the climbdown is inevitably going to be low-key and sheepish, a whimper rather than a bang.

May 28, 2013 at 9:45 AM | Unregistered CommenterTurning Tide

That heat is being trapped in the oceans is what the more pompous Alarmists would call 'a plausible mechanism'.

The rest of us would call it 'a hopeful guess.'

May 28, 2013 at 9:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterRick Bradford

'the suggestion that the heat is all going into the oceans is at best only "possible" '

Is there any actual evidence that suggests any possible 'excess heat' is more likely to be in the deep oceans rather than long past Alpha Centauri by now.

May 28, 2013 at 9:55 AM | Unregistered CommenterRob Burton

If the heat is now going into the oceans, why did it previously go into the atmosphere?

What changed to alter its behaviour in 1998?

May 28, 2013 at 9:56 AM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder

Not 'a hopeful guess', Mr Bradford, a wild one.

May 28, 2013 at 9:57 AM | Unregistered CommenterAgouts

I'm waiting for someone to suggest that the missing heat is being absorbed by the Earth's crust :-)

May 28, 2013 at 10:16 AM | Unregistered CommenterDave Salt

I would quibble with this: "The extra heat trapped by greenhouse gases is not, as once imagined, simply warming the atmosphere..."
Who is it that Chivers thinks imagined that greenhouse gases would warm the atmosphere only? Scientists with as diverse opinions as Trenberth and Pielke Snr have held for many years that ocean heat content is the best metric of warming.

May 28, 2013 at 10:21 AM | Registered CommenterHaroldW

Dave Salt

Would that be the oceanic crust or the continental crust? :-)

May 28, 2013 at 10:27 AM | Registered CommenterGreen Sand

May 28, 2013 at 9:41 AM | Athelstan.
///////////////////////////////////////

As I have said many times before, we need to be told about the so called basic physics of CO2 which during the late 1970s to late 1990s caused the atmoshphere, but not the deep ocean, to warm, and as from the late 1990s onwards does not cause the atmosphere to warm, but instead the deep ocean to warm.

What is the physical process that brings about this switch, how does it operate, what causes it to work in warming the atmosphere, then to work in warming the oceans, will it switch again to warming the atmosphere (in prference to the oceans) and when can we expect to see this switch again, and what will bring this switch into operation, etc?

As I have said many times before, I will not take seriously the claim that the effect of CO2 emissions is now heating the oceans until the warmists explain the so called basic physics involved and how it operates. All of this is quite fanciful.

May 28, 2013 at 10:28 AM | Unregistered Commenterricard verney

"Now not only is atmospheric CO2 "trapping heat", it is trapping it in the ocean."

It makes sense - more than half of the anthropogenic CO2 doesn't stay in the atmosphere and is in the oceans. ;)

May 28, 2013 at 10:51 AM | Unregistered CommenterEdim

Trenberth's suggestion that the hidden heat is below 2Km is at best speculative at worst idiotic. His claim is based on the fact that we have little data below this level. But, if it was true then surface measurements would have shown it up as it passed from there to levels below. The Argo system would have shown its descent. Nothing like this has been visible in the data.
Trenberth likes his world to be the flat earth no day or night variety not that of reality. For this reason his models give the wrong answer leading to the wrong conclusions.

May 28, 2013 at 11:10 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Marshall

Hmmm! So the science ISN'T settled. Come on, BBC, this is wonderful news for mankind and should be your number one news item.

May 28, 2013 at 11:13 AM | Unregistered CommenterBob Nelson

I have read many times elsewhere that back radiation, which is in the infra red, cannot penetrate the ocean by more than 2-3 microns and its only effect can therefore be to increase evaporation at the surface. I have also read that the oceans are so vast and the specific heat of water is so high that, if back radiation could heat the oceans, the resultant temperature increase would be orders of magnitude below what is detectable. So, this story that the "missing heat" is in the oceans is the best "the dog ate my homework" excuse imaginable.

But, if it were true, this makes the oceans the most efficient thermostat we could have for our climate. As Dylann states above, this heat would only be released back into the atmosphere if the atmosphere were to cool.

May 28, 2013 at 11:27 AM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Lilley

Tom Chivers said: but our children and grandchildren aren’t going to care if we felt good. They’re going to care whether we fixed the problem.


Ah the old 'future generations' nonsense - an alarmist can never change his spots. Actually Tom, the future generations will ask why we stupidly transferred our wealth to the 'big green' conmen instead of saving it to benefit said children and grandchildren instead.

May 28, 2013 at 11:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterFarleyR

@ John Marshall 11:10am

'The Argo system would have shown its descent.'

Or maybe not. Given that each ARGO buoy is, on average, responsible for reporting on about 1.1 million sq km of non-homogenous ocean they could all have been in the wrong place at the right time. /sarc

I have serious doubts about anything said about the oceans in terms of minute fractions of a degree.

May 28, 2013 at 12:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Chappell

> The rest of us would call it 'a hopeful guess.'

I think "wildly clutching at straws" is more accurate.

May 28, 2013 at 12:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterNial

The low climate sensitivity of the Otto et al paper was not so novel. Stephen E. Schwartz, a senior scientist at Brookhaven National Laboratory, published a paper in 2007 based on ocean heat capacity that suggested an even lower sensitivity.

"The resultant equilibrium climate sensitivity, 0.30 ± 0.14 K/(W m-2), corresponds to an equilibrium temperature increase for doubled CO2 of 1.1 ± 0.5 K."

He was jumped on by a squad of other scientists and the correction was slightly higher, about the same as the Otto paper. The original paper before correction is at URL:Heat capacity, time constant, and sensitivity of Earth's climate system. Schwartz S. E. J. Geophys. Res. , D24S05 (2007)

May 28, 2013 at 12:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterFred Colbourne

Schwartz S. E. J.
May 28, 2013 at 12:21 PM Fred Colbourne

A couple of years ago, I had some discussion with Dr Schartz on the atmospheric residence time of CO2. He told me he did not plan to publish his work on this subject because of the hostility it would provoke.

May 28, 2013 at 12:54 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

Tom Chivers:


Climate change is by no means over ...

Indeed, by my own account we can expect some for another four billion years.

May 28, 2013 at 9:01 AM | Richard Drake
--------------------------------------------------

A bit at the Headingley test-match this afternoon wouldn't go amiss...

May 28, 2013 at 1:02 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

I'm half Kiwi so I can't help you there, Michael. :)

May 28, 2013 at 1:05 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

As I have said many times before, we need to be told about the so called basic physics of CO2 which during the late 1970s to late 1990s caused the atmoshphere, but not the deep ocean, to warm, and as from the late 1990s onwards does not cause the atmosphere to warm, but instead the deep ocean to warm.
What is the physical process that brings about this switch, how does it operate, what causes it to work in warming the atmosphere, then to work in warming the oceans, will it switch again to warming the atmosphere (in prference to the oceans) and when can we expect to see this switch again, and what will bring this switch into operation, etc?

Indeed Mr. Verney, indeed.

Though I would posit that, such a mechanism does not physically exist, it merely exists in the minds of the apologists for man made warming. As you will have gleaned from my post Ricard - detecting the man made noise from such a fantastical notion - is something akin to the quest in quantum physics and its search to finding the answer - to the black hole 'singularity' - but at least in hypothesis the singularity exists[?].

Supposition and pseudo science [computational modelling] is all they [alarmists] have, lets face it the idea of the ITCZ 'hotspots' was another climatology holy grail quest - hotspots - was just another hypothesized chimera.

May 28, 2013 at 2:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.

A thought: If "Heat" can sneak INTO the below 2km depth, can't it sneak OUT OF the below 2km depth from previous warming periods?

May 28, 2013 at 3:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterBruce

May 28, 2013 at 11:27 AM | David Lilley

"I have read many times elsewhere that back radiation, which is in the infra red, cannot penetrate the ocean by more than 2-3 microns and its only effect can therefore be to increase evaporation at the surface. ..."
////////////////////////////////////////////

I am one of those who have repeatedly pointed out that the optical absorption characteristics of LWIR in water is that about 50% of LWIR is absorbed within the first 4 microns, and virtually none penetrates beyond 10 microns.

If one considers DWLWIR to be omni-directional and not actually acting in a vertical plane, then it follows that more than 50% of DWLWIR is absorbed within the first 4 microns of the oceans.

Now that means that there is an awful lot of energy being absorbed in the first couple of microns. The question arises, what happens to that energy?

It is difficult to see that it can be conducted downwards and dispiated to depth because the temperature flux within the first 10 microns is upwards (the temperature of the first 10 microns is cooler than the temperature of say the 10 to 50 micron band). Presently, there is no known process whereby heat energy can be conducted against the direction of the heat flux so it does not appear that the energy absorbed in the first couple of microns can be conducted downwards and disipated instead of driving evaporation.

The only other processes that I have seen mentioned is wind mixing and ocean overturning. However, these are slow mechanical processes and it is not easy to envisage how these can disiipate the energy which is essentially being absorbed in fractions of a second downwards at a speed quicker than that at which it is being absorbed.

Wind mixing is problematic since on calm days there would be no or little wind to mix the ocean. On windy days there would be much windswept spray and spume, ie., a thin veil of water droplets 9not water vapour) over the top of the oceans. this layer of wind swept spray and spume would be millimeters 9not microns thick) and it would absorb some (or all) of the incoming DWLWIR before the DWLWIR could reach the top of the oceans. The veil of wind swept sray and spume would therefore act rather like a parasol shielding the ocean from the DWLWIR so instead of the DWLWIR getting into the ocean, it stays airbourne in the atmosphere driving convection or evaporation of the wind swept spray and spume.

Accordingly there appears no obvious mechanism that would eneable the DWLWIR to become mixed with the ocean and to disipate its energy to depth at a rate faster than the energy within DWLLWIR would drive evaporation.

Accordingly, it would appear that DWLWIR simply promotes evaporation, and evaporation, of course, cools the surface of the ocean.

May 28, 2013 at 3:11 PM | Unregistered Commenterrichard verney

I'm working on a system to bring all the deep 'missing heat' out of the ocean just as the Holocene ends, but so far I can't beat Nature at it.
==============

May 28, 2013 at 3:19 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim

Richard Verney:

Accordingly, it would appear that DWLWIR simply promotes evaporation, and evaporation, of course, cools the surface of the ocean.

All helpful thanks. The deep water conjecture seemed to be evaporating as I read it.

May 28, 2013 at 3:47 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Good point Mr Salt; if we do the CCS malarkey, then all that CO2 is going to trap the heat underground - from where it cannot escape! This will lead to rapidly increasing temperatures deep underground, so increasing the risk of earthquakes, tsunamis, accelerating continental drift – it might even release the Silurians, then we will truly be in deep trouble!

It only goes to show that the governments’ advisors should have thought their mad-cap schemes through more thoroughly.

May 28, 2013 at 3:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterRadical Rodent

I find it hard to believe that you guys get excited about papers that agree with your basic premise but do so on the basis of models?

May 28, 2013 at 5:01 PM | Registered CommenterDung

Dung May 28, 2013 at 5:01 PM

Luke 15:7?

May 28, 2013 at 6:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

[Snip. Manners]

May 28, 2013 at 7:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterEvil Denier

May 28, 2013 at 10:16 AM Dave Salt

No, it's going several levels down, to validate Algore's pronouncement: "Earth's Interior 'Extremely Hot, Several Million Degrees'".

In time, in time .... </sarc>

May 28, 2013 at 7:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterEvil Denier

The most important thing about heat in the deep ocean , is that its 'DEEP' so very hard to measure. Now normal in science that would mean the claims are poor at best. But in climate 'science' any claims that support the cause are automatically valid claims. This of course makes life so much easier.

May 28, 2013 at 8:10 PM | Unregistered Commenterknr

May 28, 2013 at 5:01 PM | Dung

I can't see any discussion of papers in this comment thread mainly doubts on energy getting into the ocean.

May 28, 2013 at 10:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterRob Burton

Speculative and unphysical!

May 29, 2013 at 4:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

Does moderation no longer take place Bish?

[snipped from previous comment]
I make the point that we criticise warmists because all they have to support their cause is models. It seems therefore appropriate that we treat models in an even handed way whoever uses them.

Thank you for your profound comments Evil Denier.

May 29, 2013 at 6:42 PM | Registered CommenterDung

Trenberth's new suggestion that the heat is below 2 km depth in the deep ocean is at best speculative ...

Convection, anybody?

May 29, 2013 at 8:56 PM | Unregistered Commenterheat rises

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