Are The Oceans Warming?

We’re reported previously (here and here, among others) about one of the leading explanations for the current lull in global warming climate change, namely, that the heat is going into the oceans—particularly deep in the ocean, where, convenviently for the climatistas, we have very little data—instead of the atmosphere.  It is a plausible hypothesis, and while there is some data to support ocean warming, it is very incomplete and over a short time scale.

There’s a new paper just out in the Journal of Physical Oceanography by Carl Wunsch of Harvard and Patrick Heimbach of MIT—both prominent figures in the field, neither known as a climate “skeptic”—that is likely to make waves (pun intended).  You can find the abstract here (you can find a manuscript copy of the complete article on Wunsch’s website.) It is typically dense and difficult to follow, and appears to be written cautiously so as not to give direct aid and comfort to climate skeptics.  But this sentence in particular appears significant:

Interpretation requires close attention to the long memory of the deep ocean, and implying that meteorological forcing of decades to thousands of years ago should still be producing trend-like changes in abyssal heat content.

In other words, it would not be unfair to suggest that ocean trends might have much longer-term causes than the emissions from your SUV alone.

And there’s this possibly inconvenient fact:

Parts of the deeper ocean, below 3600 m, show cooling. 

I’d sure like to hear more about what this might mean, but on the surface it would sound like a problem for the conventional climate narrative.

And on p. 22 of the complete manuscript, the authors say this:

Direct determination of changes in oceanic heat content over the last 20 years are not in conflict with estimates of the radiative forcing, but the uncertainties remain too large to rationalize e.g., the apparent “pause” in warming. (Emphasis added.)

In other words, “we don’t know.”  But that won’t stop a lot of climatistas from saying that they do know.  There’s lots more interesting and carefully worded analysis in the paper, which is extremely dense and difficult for a non-specialist to follow, that suggests the climatistas might want to pause in how they assert they know why the temperature has plateaued.