Evidence that global warming isn’t happening? Not necessarily, although it certainly hasn’t been happening over the past year. Evidence that the predictive modeling in this area isn’t nearly as nuanced as it needs be? Pretty much, yeah.
Some 3,000 scientific robots that are plying the ocean have sent home a puzzling message. These diving instruments suggest that the oceans have not warmed up at all over the past four or five years. That could mean global warming has taken a breather. Or it could mean scientists aren’t quite understanding what their robots are telling them.
This is puzzling in part because here on the surface of the Earth, the years since 2003 have been some of the hottest on record. But Josh Willis at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory says the oceans are what really matter when it comes to global warming…
In recent years, heat has actually been flowing out of the ocean and into the air. This is a feature of the weather phenomenon known as El Nino. So it is indeed possible the air has warmed but the ocean has not. But it’s also possible that something more mysterious is going on.
That becomes clear when you consider what’s happening to global sea level. Sea level rises when the oceans get warm because warmer water expands. This accounts for about half of global sea level rise. So with the oceans not warming, you would expect to see less sea level rise. Instead, sea level has risen about half an inch in the past four years. That’s a lot…
It’s … possible that some of the heat has gone even deeper into the ocean, he says. Or it’s possible that scientists need to correct for some other feature of the planet they don’t know about. It’s an exciting time, though, with all this new data about global sea temperature, sea level and other features of climate.
So many possibilities. Here’s another: What if the heat escaping into the air from the oceans results in the dreaded runaway greenhouse effect? Actually, that’s not one to worry about. Turns out the predictive modeling there was all wrong, too.