Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Oceans protecting us from global warming? For how long?

Are the scientists researching climate change allowing sufficiently for the moderating role of water?

Water has a high specific heat capacity. The same energy that raises the temperature of water by 1°C, will make copper hotter by more than 10°C.

This Time article (November 2013) reports "the vast oceans carry 93% of the stored energy from climate change, compared to just 1% for the atmosphere, with melting ice and landmasses making up the rest." Some of that energy goes to raising the temperature at certain depths.

But water has other ways of processing heat. It can expand, so that could be one of the reasons sea levels are rising.

There is also water's tendency to form chains of molecules - or even rings - and presumably heat energy will be used in the breaking of these structures, and there's a lot of them in the Earth's 1.3 billion cubic kilometres of ocean.

Another energy-employing phase change is evaporation. “The atmosphere’s water vapor content has increased by about 0.41 kilograms per square meter (kg/m²) per decade since 1988, and natural variability in climate just can’t explain this moisture change," says this article.

And then there's claims and counterclaims about melting ice. The argument is plagued by complexity because of the warming, cooling, evaporating and precipitating effects of wind currents and the difficulty of measuring ice thickness as well as extent.

The thermal absorption properties of water may have bought us more time, but they don't let us completely off the hook. Just as we are learning to discount climate change alarmists, we should look more skeptically at the sanguinists. There's a huge difference between "small chance" and "no chance", as we have found in financial matters; also, between "a long time ahead" and "never".

And then there's the at present theoretical concern about all that methane currently trapped in the oceans - by the water structures known as "clathrates", structures that heat energy can break.


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A K Haart said...

This notion is scientifically incoherent.

The apocalyptic CO2 theory on which we are wasting billions requires warming of the troposphere. As this warming is not occurring as predicted, the theory is wrong.

Look at the behaviour, not the narrative.

Sackerson said...

Yes, I was too engrossed in trying to explain the high specific heat capacity to myself. I leave as open questions (a) whether global warming is happening at all and if so (b) to what extent it is influenced by human activity. Shall we agree to discuss posts like this under the heading of "hypothetical global temperature model" or something?

I should also like to know the science whereby heat in the air would largely transfer to water beneath it.

And bearing in mind that undersea volcanic chains were only discvered within my lifetime, can we rule out the possibility that if there is an increase in oceanic warming, it cpuld be accounted for by an increase in subaquatic volcanic activity?

A K Haart said...

Sackers - I have a simple and tentative model which may be worth a punt. The trouble is, the field of possibilities keeps widening.

My impression is that prior to the Argo project, sea temperatures are tricky with major uncertainties.

As for undersea volcanoes, I once saw an interesting piece on that but can't trace it. Worth another look though.

James Higham said...

I just came into the comments thread to say I'd like to see AK Haart's reaction to this warmist article and he and you, Sackers, are already in debate.

Enjoying it. Don't forget to keep your winter woollies handy though, all the same.

Sackerson said...

Not so much a debate as a bit of puzzling - get involved.