Sunday, September 08, 2013

Where the Warming Went

Detecting global warming by looking only at surface temperature is like checking a flu patient's fever by sticking a thermometer under his nose instead of in his mouth.

That's the message of this excellent Peter Sinclair video, via the Yale Forum on Climate Change and the Media.

Josh Willis calls the ocean “our most accurate thermometer for measuring climate change.” [And bless him for saying, at another point, "the data is" rather than "the data are" -- a mistake I make all the time.]

Sometimes you see scoffers say something like "Where was all this talk about ocean heating before the pause?" And it's probably true that until this particular hiatus, everone was too dependent on the surface record. (In fact, I quoted Kevin Trenberth saying that in my own YFCCM article in May.)

But this is how science always works -- it explains what it can with what it has, and when new results come in that it cannot explain, it looks around and figures out why, and adds that knowledge to its arsenal (or works to develop a new theory that explains the new facts together with the old ones.) Here climate science is working exactly as science does -- it's found the new explanation, which is completely consistent with the existing explanation -- the enhanced greenhouse effect. Understanding grows.

By the way, remember all that scoffer talk from a few years ago about the quality of the surface record, that it couldn't be trusted and that the conclusion of warming based on it wasn't reliable? Funny how all that has gone away for now, isn't it? Now the data seems seem just fine to conclude there is a hiatus. Who know error bars could only point upward?

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