Don’t believe the latest lie: There is no “pause” in global warming

One more look, this time in greater detail, at that bogus global warming “pause” you’re going to be hearing so much about shortly.

My guess is that Chuck Todd will be one of those bringing the non-story to you, because … well … Chuck Todd. But hey, watch the Sunday shows as well; they’ll all be hammering the soon-to-be-released fifth assessment report (AR5) from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which is due out momentarily. The mainstream media will be denier central (“on the one hand, on the other hand”) for as long as the report is news, and as long they’re paid by climate-denying corporations to report it.

We talked about why the “pause” is bogus, and presented a global heating chart — what heat gets absorbed where — as evidence. But I didn’t explain the dynamic, so here it is. You’ll want to know this for your denier friends. It’s not that hard to learn or say, though it may be hard for them to listen to.

(By the way, there’s a great global warming primer here — all the basics in one readable place. Want a definition of the “greenhouse effect”? Click through.)

Heat absorbed by the upper ocean both rises and falls. Rates of each vary over time.

Bottom line first, and that’s your bottom line, ahead of the detailed explanation. When the upper ocean absorbs heat, it distributes it both up and down. Rates of each vary. So if upper ocean heat falls to lower ocean layers more rapidly than it rises into the air, the upper ocean will remain relatively cool, and it will not heat the air as quickly. For a time.

Nevertheless, the total heat absorbed by the system is still increasing, and at a very rapid rate. At some point, those upper ocean and surface temperatures will shoot up again.

Some “pause.” You ate the monster meal; you just haven’t thrown up yet. (Yes, that’s a reference to the “wafer-thin mint,” and no, I won’t link to it. Sorry.)

Actually the only pause the deniers really care about is a pause in their paychecks from denier-suppliers like the Heartland Institute. As in, they only care that there never be such a pause.

The detail

I offered this chart previously, which shows the increase in total-system temperature, but doesn’t easily show the rate of growth of the system’s components.

Total heat content of deep ocean, shallow ocean, land, ice and atmosphere (1960–2012)

Total heat content of shallow ocean, deep ocean, land, ice and atmosphere (1960–2012)

Look carefully at the labels for the two ocean components, 0–700 meters and 700–2000 meters. On other charts the groupings will differ slightly. The “pause” you’ll be hearing about is the slowing of the rise of the light blue area (shallow ocean temperature), added to the small rise in the red area, relative to itself only. No “pause” chart I’ve seen takes the dark-blue area (deep ocean temperature) into account.

Here’s more from Real Science (my emphasis). The first chart they present, showing shallow ocean temperatures only, is the kind the “pause” deniers use. You’ll see it a lot if you fish these waters in your reading.

Slowdown in the upper ocean

Let us look at the upper ocean (for historic reasons defined as the upper 700 m):

Heat content of the upper ocean (0–700 meters). The slowing of this component at the end is what deniers are calling the "pause."

Heat content of the upper ocean (0–700 meters). The slowing of this component at the end is
what deniers are calling the “pause.” (My caption)

And here is the direct comparison since 1980:

Heat content of combined upper and lower ocean (0–2000 meters) compared to just the upper ocean (0–700 meters). No "pause." (My caption)

Heat content of combined upper and lower ocean (0–2000 meters) compared to
just the upper ocean (0–700 meters). No “pause.” (My caption)

We see two very interesting things.

First: Roughly two thirds of the warming since 1980 occurred in the upper ocean. The heat content of the upper layer has gone up twice as much as in the lower layer (700 – 2000 m). The average temperature of the upper layer has increased more than three times as much as the lower (because the upper layer is only 700 m thick, and the lower one 1300 m). That is not surprising, as after all the ocean is heated from above and it takes time for the heat to penetrate deeper.

Second: In the last ten years the upper layer has warmed more slowly than before. In spite of this the temperature still is changing as rapidly there as in the lower layer. This recent slower warming in the upper ocean is closely related to the slower warming of the global surface temperature, because the temperature of the overlaying atmosphere is strongly coupled to the temperature of the ocean surface.That the heat absorption of the ocean as a whole (at least to 2000 m) has not significantly slowed makes it clear that the reduced warming of the upper layer is not (at least not much) due to decreasing heating from above, but rather mostly due to greater heat loss to lower down: through the 700 m level, from the upper to the lower layer.

Pretty clear. At the moment, the heat absorbed by the upper ocean is going down faster than it’s going up — at the moment. That will change. And again, the entire system is still absorbing more heat than it’s giving off. Global warming.

The authors conclude:

There are then at least three independent lines of evidence that confirm we are not dealing with a slowdown in the global warming trend, but rather with progressive global warming with superimposed natural variability:

1.  Our correlation analysis between global temperature and the El Niño Index.

2.  The measurements of oceanic heat uptake.

3.  The new model calculation of Kosaka and Xie.

There’s more in this good report. Please read if you wish.

Michael Mann on the same subject

Here’s a recent op-ed by Dr. Michael Mann, author of the famous Hockey Stick diagram, which in part addresses the same subject (again, emphasis mine):

In many respects, the IPCC has been overly conservative in its assessment of the science. The new report, for example, slightly reduces the lower end of the estimated uncertainty range for a quantity know as the equilibrium climate sensitivity — the amount of warming scientists expect in response to a doubling of carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations relative to preindustrial levels (concentrations that will be seen mid-century, given business-as-usual emissions).

The IPCC reports a likely range of 1.5 to 4.5 degrees Celsius (roughly 3 to 8 degrees Fahrenheit) for this quantity, the lower end having been dropped from 2.0 degrees C in the fourth IPCC assessment. The lowering is based on one narrow line of evidence: the slowing of surface warming during the past decade.

Yet there are numerous explanations of the slowing of [surface] warming (unaccounted for effects of volcanic eruptions and natural variability in the amount of heat buried in the ocean) that do not imply a lower sensitivity of the climate to greenhouse gases.

A second source, and again, seems pretty clear.

“No misrepresentation is too egregious for professional climate-change deniers”

About the deniers, Mann says:

The lesson here, perhaps, is that no misrepresentation or smear is too egregious for professional climate-change deniers. No doubt, we will continue to see misdirection, cherry-picking, half truths and outright falsehoods from them in the months ahead as the various IPCC working groups report their conclusions.

Note — “professional climate-change deniers”. They are indeed a profession, and a well-paid one. Last I heard, the Koch Bros were loaded, rolling in it, and eager to spend to get at their unmonetized carbon assets. If you’re conscienceless, they have a job for you. So do all of these good folks.

Mann concludes:

Don’t be fooled by the smoke and mirrors and the Rube Goldberg contraptions. The true take-home message of the latest IPCC report is crystal clear: Climate change is real and caused by humans, and it continues unabated. We will see far more dangerous and potentially irreversible impacts in the decades ahead if we do not choose to reduce global carbon emissions. There has never been a greater urgency to act than there is now.

The latest IPCC report is simply an exclamation mark on that already-clear conclusion.

To illustrate his urgency, here’s the U.S. at 1000 ppm of CO2, showing weeks per year of temperatures greater than 100°F. Check out the California Central Valley; last I heard, agriculture was important there:

Temperatures in the U.S. at 1000 ppm CO2.

Temperatures in the U.S. at 1000 ppm CO2.

I’m eagerly waiting for that report. Stay tuned.


To follow or send links: @Gaius_Publius

Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States.

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34 Responses to “Don’t believe the latest lie: There is no “pause” in global warming”

  1. UFIA says:

    Gaius Publius, thank you!
    You always write what I wished someone was writing.
    And you do it well.

  2. zorbear says:

    For most bears, all those dead bodies laying around should last them awhile, but for me, I’m thinking that with the passing of humans, bees will make a comeback. And honey is all I ever really need…

  3. karmanot says:

    A pause is the distance between two grey cells of a denier.

  4. karmanot says:

    Yep, it’s called Rupture.

  5. karmanot says:

    But who will feed the bears!!! :-)

  6. karmanot says:

    Capitalism always trumps democracy and end stage capitalism destroys it.

  7. eggroll_jr says:

    While the term “carbon sequestration” has made it into the vernacular, there is no term for its opposite. Yet “carbon liberation” seems to be what a lot of the past 200 years have been about. Instead, we have god-awful terms like “anthrpogenic global warming.” In fact, natural processes like peatbog formation sequester carbon, and natural processes like lightning fires liberate carbon. We should just focus on those human activities that liberate the most carbon and cease or reduce them.

  8. heimaey says:

    Exactly. A pause is not a full stop. So even if there was (if that were possible) then what next? We’d be lucky if there were a for real pause and we could set some of the damage backwards. That’s what I think when I think of a pause.

  9. BillFromDover says:

    Jesus Christ in a heat chamber!

    Are ya all expecting us to believe that the deniers are now attempting to use science as an argument by quoting statistics from those they constantly berate for producing bullshit simply to support their own salaries?

    If this ain’t he epitome of industrial-fuckin’ strength hypocrisy, then what is?

  10. jimsteele says:

    Argo data show the upper 300 meters of the oceans have cooled since 2003. Read Xue,Y., et al., (2012) A Comparative Analysis of Upper-Ocean Heat Content Variability from an Ensemble of
    Operational Ocean Reanalyses. Journal of Climate, vol 25, 6905-6929. How do the lower layers heat when the upper layers cool?

    Many local areas are also cooling. Biggest temperature rise happens wherever populations are growing

  11. zorbear says:

    Not to worry — if nothing is done to slow the current population growth curve, the human race will self-destruct before the next century rolls around…

  12. cole3244 says:

    for the foolish the answer is in the sky, after all the earth is only 10,000 years old and god is great.

  13. Ninong says:

    The new levees will withstand another Hurricane Katrina-level event but may not withstand a strong Category 4 storm. However, some of the outlying areas south and southeast of the city were not included in the new protection and remain vulnerable. The city itself, however, is protected from a Category 3 storm.

    There is another issue that remains and will only get worse over the long-term and that’s the issue of the combination of rising sea level and subsidence of the entire southern part of the state of Louisiana. The Mississippi Delta in southeast Louisiana is literally sinking! That has been precipated by the actions taken by the oil and gas industry and the extremely poor planning by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. In fact, the Hurricane Katrina debacle was caused by the worst engineering failure in the history of the United States, thanks to extremely poor design of the levee system by the Corps of Engineers.

    The levees were, unintentionally, designed to fail. The sad thing about Katrina was that it was fully predicted, in detail, at least three or four years in advance by studies published by LSU and other institutions.

    It will be virtually impossible to protect the New Orleans area from flooding in the 22nd century. Subsidence and rising sea levels will make it too costly. Of course, we might be able to say the same about the City of New York and most of the state of Florida, too.

    There were no levees at all on the Mississippi River when the city of New Orleans was founded nearly 300 years ago. The French weren’t dumb enough to build houses on land that was below sea level. There are still a few buildings in the French Quarter, like the Ursulines Convent, that are more than 250 years old (in other words, they didn’t burn down in the fire of 1784). The French Quarter didn’t flood during Katrina, although some of the fringes may have had six or eight inches of water in the streets. It was the rest of the city, 80% of which is below sea level, that flooded.
    The Corps of Engineers approved, and the oil and gas industry, built a gigantic system of canals through the marsh that accelerated the loss of the naturally protective wetlands that used to protect the city from major tidal surges.

    The whole thing is a mess and no matter what they do, it won’t be sufficient by the end of this century. Just look at all the money being spent in Holland to protect them from sea level rises. How long will that protect them. Venice is another major city that is doomed. St. Mark’s Square now floods a few times every year.

  14. Dave of the Jungle says:

    Someone’s going to come before anything bad can happen. So, just Praise the Lord. See?

  15. Naja pallida says:

    Even if there was a pause, which I don’t buy for an instant and my understanding of the wider data is layman at best… has no one ever heard the cliche “calm before the storm”?

  16. Naja pallida says:

    I’ve tried to make the same argument. Conservation and considering alternative sources for fuel is only sensible, no matter how you want to look at it. You don’t even have to factor in climate change to realize that diversifying our energy resources is better for everyone… well, everyone except the companies and few people making trillions of dollars off of monopolizing the energy industry.

    Any way you want to twist it, putting money and resources into mitigating problems before they occur is always cheaper than actually waiting for disaster, and fixing the problem afterwards. I just don’t understand why a city has to be drown, or a bridge has to collapse, before someone goes “Gee, maybe we should fix that.” And even then, something like $15 billion has been spent rebuilding New Orleans levees, and while they’re better than they were before, officials stated that they still most likely wouldn’t withstand another Hurricane Katrina-level event. So, what have we learned, really? We’ve learned that as long as the people don’t demand it, it can’t ever happen. And even when the people do demand it, the politicians ignore them because they only listen to what the corporate money tells them to do.

  17. Ninong says:

    Wishful thinking.

  18. Ninong says:

    Find a year that was exceptionally warm and use that as your starting point. Then find a later year that was exceptionally cool and use that as your end point. Take the rate of warming during that period and compare it with the highest rate of warming in a previous period and then write an article claiming that the rate of warming is slowing down. Easy.

    Or better still, just look for a year that had a really large volcanic eruption and then take the average global temperature in the following year or two. There is always a slight global cooling following a really large volcanic eruption.

  19. Naja pallida says:

    Is there an opposite to being raptured? Like a giant claw emerging from the Earth, dragging under those who have worked so hard to earn it?

  20. Ninong says:

    Last time I heard, Marcus Bachmann was still fabulous but not yet rapturous. He and his idiot wife are still waiting to be raptured. The sooner the better.

  21. Naja pallida says:

    The Rapture has already happened. It’s the only possible explanation for what we have left for “believers”.

  22. Ninong says:

    Because they’re idiots, that’s why. You can’t argue with people who expect to be “raptured” any minute.

  23. Ninong says:

    And senile and quite possibly impotent, too. Maybe that’s why his wife du jour is divorcing him? I hope she takes him to the cleaners.

  24. Dave of the Jungle says:

    Rupert Murdoch is evil.

  25. Outspoken1 says:

    I am ‘usually’ able to shut-up the climate change deniers by asking the simple question, “So even if there is no climate change, why would conservation efforts be wrong. Oil, coal, etc. supplies, are not unlimited. Any conservation is good policy and protects the environment for our children, Right?”

  26. Ninong says:

    Apparently Rupert Murdoch’s media empire (Fox News, Wall Street Journal, et al.) is pushing hard on the idea that there is a “slowdown in global warming” and that “previous predictions were wrong.” Somebody leaked a distorted version of what the report would contain. It was clearly interpreted out of context by one of the “scientific” climate deniers. They’re pathetic, and not doubt owned by David and Charles Koch. Their parents were probably owned by the tobacco industry.

    The official summary for policymakers released today by the IPCC is not the same as the leaked version. Scientific American has the entire 36-page summary online and it’s worth a quick read. You don’t have to bother with the charts, unless you see a field that interests you, you just have to read the brief paragraphs highlighted in orange, starting on page 3.

  27. Bill_Perdue says:

    The idea of a pause is unscientific. It’s pure wishful thinking and in this case wishful thinking to aid the agenda of polluters.

  28. karmanot says:

    Gaius, hope you put together a book with these articles. Well done!

  29. UncleBucky says:

    A perception or interpretation of events could be possible.

    But as I wrote, a “pause” is not at all representative of a “trend”.

  30. UncleBucky says:

    Hm. Pause ≠ Trend. Thx, Gaius!

  31. Bardi says:

    Agree entirely.

    Also, as a relative neophyte to the issue, I have yet to hear the issue of specific heat of phase change, as related to the “pause”.

    It takes about 2 joules of energy to heat one gram of ice one degree C, 4.2 joules to heat one gram of water one degree C, but about 333 joules of heat to drive one gram of ice to one gram of water at -1 degree C, the same temperature.

    I understand that to mean that while the temperature steadily increases, while water is undergoing a phase change from ice to water, a tremendous amount of heat is taken in without a discernible increase in temperature. Could this have something to do with the “pause”?

    Perhaps this represents a very small percent in the big picture and due to seasonal changes, an equal amount of heat may be released in the reverse reaction, moderating the overall effect.

  32. Joe says:

    Anyone who pushes the idea of a pause in global warming needs to be questioned. If they believe global warming has paused then they must admit they believe global warming is a reality. A pause indicated that it will resume. We would need a measurable reversal, for a long period of time, for it to be of any significance.

  33. Drew2u says:

    Forest fragmentation triggers ‘ecological Armageddon’
    By Mark Kinver
    Environment reporter, BBC News

    “The islands studied by the researchers replicated the conditions created by fragmentation

    Species affected by rainforest fragmentation are likely to be wiped out more quickly than previously thought, scientists have warned.

    A study found that some small mammal species on forest islands, created by a hydroelectric reservoir, in Thailand became extinct in just five years.”

  34. heimaey says:

    How is a “pause” even possible?

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