The Missing Heat

It is possible for the theory that the climate has a high sensitivity to CO2 (ie that a doubling of CO2 concentrations will lead to global temperature increases of 2.5C or higher) to be correct while still having ten years of flat to declining surface temperatures.  That is because Earth's great surface heat reservoir is the oceans, not the atmosphere, and so the extra heat from the greenhouse effect could be going into the oceans rather than into near-surface air.

However, it is NOT possible, as least as we (and by "we" I mean everyone, skeptics and alarmists alike) understand the climate, for CO2 to be holding a lot of extra heat and it not show up either in surface temperatures or ocean heat content.  The greenhouse effect does not turn off -- its effects may be masked in the chaotic weather systems, perhaps for years, but if the climate sensitivity to CO2 is really as high as the IPCC says, there has to be new heat going somewhere.

That is why a number of folks, including Roger Pielke, have argued for years that the best way to monitor whether we are truly seeing an additional forcing or heat input to the climate is to look at ocean heat content.  Understand, changes in ocean heat content would not tell us where the heat is coming from (e.g. anthropogenic CO2 vs. solar activity).  But it is pretty much impossible for us to imagine a new heat input to the Earth's surface, like greenhouse gas forcing from anthropogenic CO2, without observing its effect in ocean heat content.

I will turn over the story to Jo Nova, who has a good post on the new tools we have to measure ocean heat content since 2003.  In short, though, we have seen no rise in measured ocean heat content since we started measuring with technology dedicated to the task.  This means, if those who believe the climate has a high sensitivity to CO2 are right, something like 50,000 quintillion joules of energy have gone missing since 2003.  This is the "missing heat", and though climate scientists sometimes discuss it in private, they almost never do so in public.  Ocean heat is the dinosaur bone fossil that the creationists simply don't want to acknowledge.

Read the whole thing.  It is very simple and well-written and written.

PS- note in the chart above, the y-axis is mis-labelled a bit, it is not absolute heat content but changes in heat content from some base period.  Scientists call this the "anomaly."  This is typical of many climate charts.


  1. Mark:

    Did Jo Nova mean 50 Sextillion joules? :P

  2. DrTorch:

    Ugh, what a horrible analogy to end the entry.

    Missing heat is not the dinosaur fossil to the creationist, missing heat is the missing fossils to the evolutionist. (You know, parallelism)

    The reasons that so many are skeptical of evolution are identical to climate skepticism: lack of empirical evidence, accepting models over evidence, cherry picking data to support the theory, and repeated failed predictions.

  3. Russ R.:


    You're a textbook case study in congitive dissonance.

  4. caseyboy:

    Right on DrTorch, agenda driven science can raise its ugly head in many areas and evolution is just another example. Improvements in scientific methods and instruments have given us greater visibility into the Cosmos and into the sub-atomic world. It wasn’t too long ago that many scientists told us that science would finally disprove the existence of a Supreme Being. Funny thing is that it may be working the other way.

    Take cosmology, scientists are now able to measure the cosmic microwave background radiation (CMBR) temperatures throughout the universe. They have found that these readings are nearly identical no matter which direction they measure. This phenomenon gave rise to the “Horizon Problem”, how could temperature measurements taken at the extremes of the universe be nearly identical when they are 28 billion light years apart? The “Big Bang” theory was offered as a solution and many physicists have accepted that theory. What is the “Big Bang” theory? Something triggered an event that resulted in the creation of energy and mass that then expanded at a rapid rate from a central point. Please refer to Genesis 1. By the way, the “Flatness Problem” of the universe is also solved by the application of the “Big Bang” theory. The Super Collider in Europe is an attempt to better understand this phenomenon.

    Cosmos too big to get your head around? How about quantum mechanics - the body of scientific principles which attempts to explain the behavior of matter and its interactions with energy on the scale of atoms and atomic particles? Most physicists have coalesced around one of the following interpretations that explain quantum behaviors, Hidden variables , Copenhagen, Many Worlds and Superdeterminism. Hidden variables is a reductionist view that there is an invisible mechanism behind quantum mechanics which produces the observed behavior. Likewise the Copenhagen Interpretation requires some facilitating agent. Many Worlds leaves room for a facilitating agent, but does not require one. Superdeterminism would explicitly require atheism to be correct. So 2 out of 4 require a facilitating agent or invisible mechanism to be correct interpretations. This doesn’t mean that physicists in the Hidden Variables and Copenhagen camps are trumpeting the existence of Creator God, but they are left to explain what/who that invisible mechanism/agent is.

    Finally genetics, our ability to observe life at the sub-atomic level is yielding challenging results for the evolutionists. Turns out everything cannot be defined as energy and/or mass. Turns out there is another component, “Information”. All living organisms have a complex information processing system that encodes, decodes, authenticates, accepts and/or rejects cell information (DNA). In order for information to be useful it must have structure, syntax, meaning and intent. Intent, whose intent? Throw the letters of the alphabet on the floor and you have a mess, but not information. Have someone arrange those letters into words then words into sentences and you have information. Another reason to consider an invisible mechanism/agent/programmer/facilitator/designer, oh I’ll just say it, Creator God.

  5. DrTorch:

    I don't think that term means what you think it does.

  6. IGotBupkis, Evoluted Biologist:

    >>> The reasons that so many are skeptical of evolution are identical to climate skepticism: lack of empirical evidence, accepting models over evidence, cherry picking data to support the theory, and repeated failed predictions.

    The difference is that there is supporting, entirely validated evidence which cannot be true if we throw out evolution, so, while it may not be perfect, it's the closest fit to the evidence we currently have available.

    What always amuses me is the inherent lack of Faith in any proponent of Creationism. They either have no real Faith in God or, alternately, that God must be utterly incompetent in executing His will.

    To wit:

    a) It is a self-evident FACT that God, if He exists, wants us to believe in Him by Faith alone. It's rather clear that, if God wanted you, personally, to Know He Existed, then He could part the heavens, reach down and twit you on the head, and shout, with His light shining upon you, "I'm HERE, DUMMY!!!" -- Q.E.D., He clearly does NOT wish to Prove Himself.

    b) Ergo, when God created the universe, he MUST have either
    -1) Done it in the manner and time described by our current understanding of events, which does not itself disprove God, it just fails to prove Him.
    -2) Done it quickly and near-instantly as described in The Bible, but done so with a completely obvious and utterly complete alternative explanation built into the data which does not REQUIRE Him to exist in order for the universe to exist.

    To argue that the universe in and of itself can, in any way, be used to prove His existence is to doubt God's ability to do b2, above, as well as b1... Ergo -- "God The Incompetent".

    The real flaw with most anti-evolutionists isn't in the idea that they reject evolution, but that they actually believe it says anything at all about God. Science and Religion are not generally enemies or antithetical to one another -- they act on different areas of human experience.

    Science is a set of precepts for separating out the knowable from the unknowable, and for providing a confidence value applicable to that which is believed known.

    Religion is a set of precepts for dealing with things which are not and cannot be dealt with by Science, which is a very large raft of things. If it can't be repeated, if it does not have a moderately clear answer EVEN POSSIBLE, if you can't even use similarities of occurrence to establish a probability of "untruth", then it's not science, it's a thing that must be believed in by Faith and Religion.

    Evolution may well have its problems, but on the whole many of the precepts used in establishing what is currently believed are used in day to day life. There is a huge overlap with Forensics, for example, with evolution. The primary difference between the two is a matter of time alone. So if you toss out evolution, then much of Forensic Science, and an awful lot of convictions, have to be tossed out as well.

    And, as noted above, Science does not provide absolutes, it only allows one to make a statement with some "confidence level" of its veracity. Biology is a soft science, with distinctly limited confidence levels -- few experiments an be performed repetitiously and reliably with the notion that the answer will be exactly the same -- bodies -- even rats -- are complex dynamical systems subject to chaos dynamics and sensitivity to initial conditions. Evolution is even worse so, since we have only one laboratory and can only look at it through a murky lens of centuries, millenia, and eons.... and only after several very destructive fires took out the entire place in that time frame, after which it was rebuilt with a great deal of time and expense by Ralph, the Wonder Llama.

    So, gee, what a surprise that the answers aren't always clear and the conclusions indisputable. Yet they are much more verifiable than those attributable to Him.

    And I say all the above as a firm believer in God. I just have Faith that He's up to something even if I have no clue what it is or why, but He Doesn't Want To Be Proven To Exist. So, until He reveals His plan to me, I'm not going to argue with what it involves by making silly claims that can't be supported by evidence masquerading as Science.

  7. IGotBupkis, Evoluted Biologist:

    >> Have someone arrange those letters into words then words into sentences and you have information. Another reason to consider an invisible mechanism/agent/programmer/facilitator/designer, oh I’ll just say it, Creator God.

    Ah, yes, the classic million monkeys at the typewriter argument. The problem with it, of course, is that it fails to deal with the corrective agency, which need not be a rational actor of any kind.

    If you set a single monkey down at a typewriter to peck away at the keyboard, yes, it may be a kabillion years (I believe that's the official measure) until he produces "Hamlet"....

    HOWEVER -- if you set that same single monkey down in front of a typewriter which happens to backspace anytime the next correct character of "Hamlet" is NOT typed, then it's really surprising how little time that kabillion years is reduced to. Natural Selection is that "backspace" mechanism". When errors occur, they are deleted, sooner or later, in favor of correct sequences. The time frames required are a lot less than a kabillion or two years.

    And no, the example given does suggest a need to understand "Hamlet", but the Natural Selection mechanism as a "corrective agent" does NOT require God or any rational, intentional actor to implement it... see the previous comment about that. Casual consideration says that, if an agency such as that were not operating (and, assuming, of course, that God did not exist to put it into effect alternately,a s He clearly may well have done, while leaving us no evidence one way or the other) then we would not be here to ask the question at all, so you're putting Decarte before de horse, and assuming that "I think, therefore I can't be".

    The fact that we ARE here says that some mechanism MUST exist. It says nothing about the nature of that mechanism whatsoever.

  8. IGotBupkis, Evoluted Biologist:

    P.S., as a nice aside, "You Can't Prove A Negative" is a logical fallacy.

    Mathematicians do it all the time.

    It's called a "proof by contradiction": You assume a proposition is true, then demonstrate that it inevitably leads to the notion that it is false, or, alternately by showing how it proves something clearly not a fact, such as "1=0".

    This works even if it's a negative proposition like "There are no such things as Dragons". The main trick is formulating the proof of a non-mathematical concept. It still works, if you do it correctly.

    I mention this because it's often encountered in arguments about the above comments.

  9. Mark:

    I wish most people who get into this evolution/ creationism debate would actually read the section of genesis before mouthing off. It was designed to be an end all scientific compendium. IT is a basic description of how the universe was created for people who did not have much education, or ability to grasp fine points about quantum mechanics.

    If you read it and realize that it is written in a someone poetic style, you will see that, though slightly out of order, the modern "scientific version" and the creationistic version are almost the same.

    Seriously Day one is very much like the big bang, And day 2 describes the coalescing of matter in the universe into bodies - and the cooling of the earth to allow water on it. Only then after god created seas and continents did things evolve - eventually into plants and sea monsters on the fourth day. We don't need to know specifics about primordial slime and the first cells - it is not really all that important to the overall story. And Hmm sea monsters, ancient fish and dinosaur fossils hmm.

    You can go on and find more of the parallels yourselves. I always found the arguments between the two camps so silly when they are arguing about the same thing.

  10. Mark:

    Sorry, I missed one word and it changed the whole meaning of my post above

    It was **NOT** designed to be an end all scientific compendium

    Wish you could edit these after the fact.

  11. caseyboy:

    Excellent. While us gray beards have accumulated some skepticism/wisdom over time, my concern is the younger generation who are not developing critical thinking skills. They are being indoctrinated around a few principles, one of which is that there is no God. God complicates things for the Progressives. That whole Inalienable Rights granted by Our Creator thing can get in the way when you want to bring everyone under the government yoke.

    A God small enough for to understand is not big enough to worship. I'm not looking to science to find God, but I do find it interesting that unbiased science may be catching a glimpse once in a while.

    And finally, why would a Monkey sit down at a typewriter in the first place? Who would rig the typewriter so that it automatically returned upon an incorrect letter?

  12. obloodyhell:

    Warren, this piece bears updating. What's the current word?

    Also -- if you warm the oceans, does that not increase its capacity to contain dissolved gasses? I seem to recall that from chemistry II. And when you're talking about something the size of the oceans, that's one hell of a lot of excess CO2 absorption capacity you add with every 100th of a degree.