The sun, the oceans and maritime activities matter on air warming

Posting: January 12, 2019

The pervious posting was about facts and ignorance. Now it seems prudent to take on another article published by The New Times: Ocean Warming Is Accelerating Faster Than Thought, New Research Finds.(restrict access) by Kendra Pierre-Louis. It is a very solid work, and in any way a fine journalistic account. What can a writer do more than summarize what climate science publish and believe in. But if one considers the dimension of basic factors involved on ocean warming matters, sciences seem so far out of step with the reality – or call it real facts – that one wonders about what they are telling on ocean warming. And should the media not ask questions, if the huge discrepancies are very obvious, between relevance of the oceans and the atmosphere in warming matters.  

The NYT article refers to a recent analysis: How fast are the oceans warming?  [in Science,  11 Jan 2019], saying  that climate change from human activities mainly results from the energy imbalance in Earth’s climate system caused by rising concentrations of heat-trapping gases. About 93% of the energy imbalance accumulates in the ocean as increased ocean heat content (OHC), while ocean temperatures have broken records for several straight years.

Here are few further excerpts:

  • As the planet has warmed, the oceans have provided a critical buffer. They have slowed the effects of climate change by absorbing 93 percent of the heat trapped by the greenhouse gases humans pump into the atmosphere.

  • “If the ocean wasn’t absorbing as much heat, the surface of the land would heat up much faster than it is right now,” said Malin L. Pinsky…. Cont.

  • Because they play such a critical role in global warming, oceans are one of the most important areas of research for climate scientists.

  • But, historically, understanding ocean temperatures has been difficult.

  • …taken. Those uncertainties hamper today’s scientists as they stitch together 20th-century temperature data into a global historical record.

  • Though the new findings provide a grim forecast for the future of the oceans, Mr. Hausfather said that efforts to mitigate global warming, including the 2015 Paris climate agreement, would help. “I think there’s some reason for confidence that we’ll avoid the worst-case outcomes,” he said, “even if we’re not on track for the outcomes we want.” [ Hausfather is co-author of the Science-article]

The NYT article mention one further interesting aspects, namely: Waters closest to the surface have warmed significantly  over the past two decades.

Discussion

The sun and water is what drives weather and climate. While the sun is out of reach for anthropogenic manipulation, the global water masses are not. Main stream climate science claims the global warming is primarily a matter of the atmosphere, while the oceans merely provide a ‘critical buffer’ (see above), That ignores that dimensions matter. The simple fact is that the ration between water volumes of the oceans versus atmosphere is 1000 to 1. That applies not only for the size and depth of the ocean, but also to the difference in global average temperatures; oceans about +4°C, the atmosphere about 13.7°C (56.7°F), respectively according NASA, the period 1951-1980, 14°C (57°F).. Latter are collected by around 6’000 stations with many ten-thousand observations daily since the 20th Century, while available ocean data comprise only a very, very tiny fraction of those numbers. Whether it is possible to make an assertion about the warming of the entire oceans should be doubted.

Over longer periods of time, for example the period since the end of the Little Ice Age (about 1850), the temperature observation of the sea surface, and a layer of dozen of meters if not hundreds of meters, may lead to convincing conclusions. This has been done and there is evidently a warming, see Figure 1. This inevitable leads to the question, is this due to sun ray, a warming atmosphere or another human activity?

To start with, the oceans cover about two-third of the earth surface. They take the bulk of heat from the sun that insures that the ocean is about 1 or 2 degrees warmer than the atmosphere. In a highly complex process the ocean feeds the atmosphere [an excerpt on: ‘Sea-Air Heat Exchange’ is given below]. What is completely missing in the ocean warming discussion, is the role of human activities at sea. About 50’000 screw driven vessel above 1’000 tons, mixing the temperature and salinity structure of the upper sea level. Thus more warm water is pressed to lower levels, as vice versa. Many hundred-thousand other types of ships, boats and floating means do the same. Pushing warm water downwards is easier achieved, than any heat release via the surface layer to the atmosphere. Since man uses the sea intensively since the end of the 20th Century, the global warming is at least to some extent (if not substantial) related to the mentioned activities. This is not only a simple logical consequence, but it is clearly indicated in Figure 1, showing that the most navigated and used sea regions show a higher warming than less used regions. It is simply impossible that any higher carbon-dioxide in the air can have caused the differences.

Neglecting the numerous human activities at and in the sea as a possible source of global warming, is hardly in the interest of the general public, politics and the media. They have a right to know every aspect of ‘anthropogenic warming’, and science has an obligation to deliver.  

Sea-Air Heat Exchange (Extract from https://eesc.columbia.edu/courses/ees/climate/lectures/o_atm.html

Conduction: When air is contact with the ocean is at a different temperature than that the sea surface; heat transfer by conduction takes place. On average the ocean is about 1 or 2 degrees warmer than the atmosphere so on average ocean heat is transferred from ocean to atmosphere by conduction. The heated air is more buoyant than the air above it, so it convects the ocean heat upward into the atmosphere. If the ocean were colder than the atmosphere (which of course happens) the air in contact with the ocean cools, becoming denser and hence more stable, more stratified. As such the conduction process does a poor job of carrying the atmosphere heat into the cool ocean. This occurs over the subtropical upwelling regions of the ocean. The transfer of heat between ocean and atmosphere by conduction is more efficient when the ocean is warmer than the air it is in contact with. On global average the oceanic heat loss by conduction is only 24 watts per square meter.

Latent Heat: The largest heat loss for the ocean is due to evaporation, which links heat exchange with hydrological cycle (Fig. 4). On global average the heat loss by evaporation is 78 watts per square meter. Why so large? It‘s because of the large heat of vaporization (or latent heat) of water, a product of the polar bonding of the H2O molecule, as discussed in the Ocean Stratification lecture. Approximately 570 calories (2.45 x 106 joules) are needed to evaporate one gram (kilogram) of water! A gram of water is roughly one cubic centimeter, amounts to a loss of one centimeter of water per a square centimeter of ocean surface area. The water vapor leaving the ocean is transferred by the atmosphere eventually condensing into water droplets forming clouds, releasing its latent heat of vaporization in the atmosphere, usually quite remote from the site of the evaporation, thus representing a significant form of heat transfer, later heat transfer.

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