How accurate are findings from the frontiers of climate science?

Posted: January 15, 2016 by tallbloke in solar system dynamics

Some worthwhile thoughts on Ocean Heat Content.

Fabius Maximus website

Summary:  This might be one of the more important of our 3500 posts. It looks at an often asked question about climate science — how accurate are its findings, a key factor when we make decisions about trillions of dollars (and affecting billions of people). This looks at the ocean heat content, a vital metric with the oceans absorbing 90%+ of global warming. How accurate are those numbers? The error bars look oddly small, especially compared to those of sea surface temperatures. This also shows how work from the frontiers of climate science can provide problematic evidence for policy action. Different fields have different standards.

I have circulated this among some experts. I’ll post any answers received in the comments.

“The spatial pattern of ocean heat content change is the appropriate metric to assess climate system heat changes including global warming.”
— Climate scientists Roger Pielke Sr. (source

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  1. Thanks for the post here! Does anyone have any thoughts about this?

    How to explain the small error bars on Ocean Heat Content? Why are they so much smaller than those Anthony Barnston gives for the SST of the Nino3.4 region (smaller and only 2D)?

    What might be the significance of larger error bars for ocean heat temperature measurements, especially if they are as large or larger than the 1950-2010 change?

    Lots of questions about this critical climate data, one of the major explanations for the pause (or “pause”).

  2. tallbloke says:

    Hi EFM and welcome. Thanks for the thought provoking post. There is a lot of shady stuff behind OHC measurements and Sid Levitus is at the heart of it. James Annan is also involved in the cover up of major maths errors in earlier Levitus papers, which have been allowed to propagate through. There’s also the matter of the splicing of earlier XBT data to the ARGO data, which resulted in a big jump upwards in reported OHC in 2003. The ARGO data showed a cooling to 2009, so the data got ‘adjusted’ in 2010 to make sure it showed warming, as it should have, dammit.

    Executive summary: OHC is FUBARed.

    Here’s the only sensible thing you’ll see on the subject:

  3. Tallbloke,

    Thanks for the response. Given what you say is so (not my field, so I have no basis to say), that raises a larger question. Why has this stood unquestioned in the literature. Roger Pielke St and others questioned the given error bars. I did not find any defense.

    Speaking as a amateur bystander, this seems a bit like the Emperor’s new clothes. (This is my second or third time playing the little child. When do I get to play Sam Spade?)

  4. tallbloke says:

    It stands unquestioned in the literature because all the mainstream climate scientists’ credibility and paychecks depend on energy accumulating in the oceans (since the air temperature hasn’t risen as expected for the last 20 years). That and it’s a specialised area that scientists from other disciplines and specialisms won’t try to question too hard. The ARGO PI Josh Willis gave an interview to a magazine around 2007 admitting the data showed cooling. It looks like he was forced by NOAA to recant and publish another article retracting the first one.

  5. oldbrew says:

    NASA has ‘adjusted’ meteo. data well outside its earlier error bars, as this post demonstrates in some detail.

    ‘Note how the alterations are about three times as large as NASA’s reported error. This indicates a scientific process which is completely broken.’

  6. Phill says:

    Jo Nova did two posts on this topic, the first with the delightful conclusion, “Random noise is coming to get you.”

    The Ocean averages 4km deep but goes much deeper in many places, the ARGO buoys sit about 1km down and briefly dip to 2km deep and then come up to report. Below this the pressure is too great for them. What we do know is that the very deepest layers are created in the Arctic and Antarctic when these Oceans freeze each winter, they expel salt to create super-cold, heavy salty water that flows straight down to the abyss. The formation of these bottom waters waxes and wains and we really know very little about it at all. In essence we have a World Ocean that is filling from the bottom with cold water and is heated at the top by the sun. The reality is that we only know something of the very topmost layer and ARGO, though useful, can never be definitive regardless of how accurate or otherwise are its measurements.

    The very coldest water, the Antarctic Bottom Water, is actually below zero and fills all the Oceans below 4000m. Who really knows what is happening to this? According to an article from the Australian Antarctic Division entitled “Antarctic Bottom Water Disappearing”, there has been a massive reduction in the amount of this water around Antarctic dating back to their first measurements in the 70s. They then go on to state what seems to me to be the complete opposite:

    “Dr Rintoul’s team had the opportunity to repeat oceanographic measurements made by Mawson’s team 100 years ago, obtaining one of the few century-long records obtained anywhere in the ocean.

    ‘Our measurements collected in 2012 are quite different to those collected by Mawson in 1912,’ Dr Rintoul said.

    ‘The water is cooler now than it was then, indicating a change in ocean currents that may be related to a reduction in the amount of dense water formed near Antarctica – as less dense water is exported, less warm water flows into the region to replace it.”

    Of course they then conclude by emphasizing that 90% of the Global Warming is Ocean Warming.

    So according to this article the abyss is cooler now than it was 100 years ago but 90% of the Global Warming is in the Ocean. All Oceans of the world beyond the upper thermocline are frigidly cold, even under the equator. Time to take a dip in the Ocean and cool off!


  7. Bloke down the pub says:

    When discussing, with a warmist friend, the missing heat supposedly hiding in the oceans, I posed a question. If you had an heated outdoor olympic sized pool, and an unlimited number of thermometers that were accurate to three decimal places, how many thermometers would you need to use before you were confident that the average you obtained was accurate to two decimal places? When you then point out the relative size of the oceans compared to a swimming pool, and the number of buoys taking temperature readings, it soon becomes obvious that claims of temperature rises accurate to thousandths of a degree are absolutely ridiculous.

  8. Phil,

    Thanks for pointing to Hadfield 2007, a test of Argo accuracy in a specific area. I don’t understand why such tests are not routinely run to validate sensor accuracy. It was quite eye-opening, and so of course was only cited 9 times.

    Your comments about the deep ocean were also interesting. Eventually they will extend the Argo findings to depths below 2000 meters. That will be interesting to see!

  9. hunter says:

    What is clear is that fanatic ideology enables people to rewrite history quite easily and to fabricate evidence even more easily.
    The climate committed are quite fanatic.