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Ocean Temperatures and Sea Level Increases 50% Higher Than Previously Estimated

An international team of researchers has found that ocean temperature and associated sea level increases between 1961 and 2003 were 50% higher than estimated in the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report. The team involved researchers from the Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research (CSIRO), the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL).

Chart Estimates of ocean heat content and sea surface temperature. Upper: Comparison of upper-ocean heat content with previous estimates (red1 and blue12) for the upper 700 m. The straight lines are linear fits to the estimates. The global mean stratospheric optical depth (arbitrary scale) at the bottom indicates the timing of major volcanic eruptions. The brown curve is a three-year running average of these values, included for comparison with the smoothed observations. Lower: Comparison of thick black line, as in a with the thick red line; thin red lines indicate estimates of one standard deviation error) results with sea surface temperature (blue; right-hand scale). All time series were smoothed with a three-year running average and are relative to 1961. Click to enlarge.

The results are reported in the 19 June edition of the journal Nature. The team compared climate models with improved observations that show sea levels rose by 1.5 millimeters per year in the period from 1961-2003. That equates to an approximately 2½-inch increase in ocean levels in a 42-year span.

Changes in the climate system’s energy budget are predominantly revealed in ocean temperatures and the associated thermal expansion contribution to sea-level rise. Climate models, however, do not reproduce the large decadal variability in globally averaged ocean heat content inferred from the sparse observational database, even when volcanic and other variable climate forcings are included. The sum of the observed contributions has also not adequately explained the overall multi-decadal rise. Here we report improved estimates of near-global ocean heat content and thermal expansion for the upper 300 m and 700 m of the ocean for 1950–2003, using statistical techniques that allow for sparse data coverage and applying recent corrections to reduce systematic biases in the most common ocean temperature observations.

The ocean warming and thermal expansion trends for 1961 to 2003 are about 50% larger than earlier estimates but about 40% smaller for 1993 to 2003, consistent with the recognition that previously estimated rates for the 1990s were biased by instrumental errors.

The research corrected for small but systematic biases recently discovered in the global ocean observing system, and uses statistical techniques that “infill” information in data-sparse regions. The results increase scientists’ confidence in ocean observations and further demonstrate that climate models simulate ocean temperature variability more realistically than previously thought.

This is important for the climate modeling community because it demonstrates that the climate models used for assessing sea-level rise and ocean warming tie in closely with the observed results.

—Peter Gleckler, LLNL

Climate model data were analyzed from 13 different modeling groups. All model data were obtained from the WCRP CMIP3 multi-model dataset archived at the LLNL’s Program for Climate Model Diagnosis and Intercomparison (PCMDI).

Although observations and models confirm that recent warming is greatest in the upper ocean, there are widespread observations of warming deeper than 700 meters.

Results were compared with recent estimates of other contributions to sea-level rise including glaciers, ice caps, Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, and thermal expansion changes in the deep ocean. When these independent lines of evidence are examined collectively, the story is more consistent than found in earlier studies.

The oceans store more than 90% of the heat in the Earth’s climate system and act as a temporary buffer against the effects of climate change. The ocean warming and thermal expansion rates are 50% larger than previous estimates for the upper 700 meters of oceans, and greater than that for the upper 300 meters.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. Our ability to quantify structural uncertainties in observationally based estimates is critically important. This study represents important progress.

—Peter Gleckler


  • Catia M. Domingues, John A. Church, Neil J. White, Peter J. Gleckler, Susan E. Wijffels, Paul M. Barker & Jeff R. Dunn (2008) Improved estimates of upper-ocean warming and multi-decadal sea-level rise, Nature, doi:10.1038/nature07080


Anyone working on fuel cells for jet ski's I wonder?

John Taylor

The evidence that we have a warming trend is quite clear.
Obviously the use of fossil fuel is a major contributor to this.

The idea of switching to renewable energy sources makes sense for lots of reasons, with the world environment being just one.

stas peterson

Once again, "research" is not based on real world measurements, but on playing with their crystal balls. The sacred computer "models". The "models" tell them this. The "model estimates" tell them that.

Actually going out and taking genuine measurements is beyond this crew. Building and analyzing the AQUOS worldwide buoy system, to actually do things like "measure" the ocean's heat is beyond this crew.

They would much rather gaze into their crystal balls, for revelations.

Reality: the 3000 AQUOS buoys only recently completed, have reported that the ocean is a lot colder both at the sea-surface and down to 1000 meters,(approx 3500 ft), deep. That "hidden heat" that explains away the decade's worldwide actual cooling, per their crystal balls, is in fact "missing".

All the global warming heat supposedly "hidden in the oceans" is not there. It certainly is not hiding in the atmosphere. Its not hiding in the oceans; its not hiding on the land, where could it be?

Or more likely, never really was there or existed there in the first place. More likely the heat was never added to the oceans or accumulated on the Earth, in the first place, as their crystal ball "models" predicted.

Much as the manipulation of the weather records, controlled by the ardent AGW disciples, is becoming a scientific scandal. How the Earth based network of historical weather stations records, amid constant "unexplained adjustments", increasingly deviates from the two different satellite measuring systems and the aerial balloon measurements.

The mounting evidence of ill sited weather station thermometers sited next to furnace or A/C vents, or on black asphalt parking lots, is presenting a distorted view of reality. Analysis using only truly rural wearther sites, unaltered by urban growth engulfing them, reviews of such weather stations, agrees with the satellite data; and when decontaminated by removing the spreading urban heat island effects, also shows very little global warming in the 20th century.

And not the ominous trends that they bray about. The anthropogenic global warming scam unravels some more.




For climate modeling, Argo is indispensable, said Trenberth, who is not involved in the project. Most of the heat from global warming is absorbed by the oceans, but the temperature increases aren't uniform, he said. This differential heating can change ocean circulation, which affects temperature and rainfall around the planet.

Changing weather also influences the ocean. Argo measurements have shown that much of the Pacific is becoming less salty, as a result of increased rainfall. Since salty water is denser than fresh, shifts in salinity will affect currents and circulation.

"The oceans are the big flywheels in the climate system," Piotrowicz said.
As oceans heat up, they expand, contributing to sea level rise — a process Argo can monitor with unprecedented accuracy.

Argo data also are pointing up weaknesses in the current understanding of climate change. Between 2003 and 2007, Argo floats measured no appreciable warming in the upper oceans — despite the fact that temperatures on land have continued to break records. At the same time, sea level is rising faster than can be explained by melting glaciers alone, said Josh Willis, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab.

"The lack of warming over a period of a few years isn't really that surprising, because of all the natural variability," he said. "It's a bit of a mystery what's going on with sea level."

The ground is absorbing some of this heat. Ground water temperatures in southern Iowa have increased by 5F in the last 30 years. Ground water temperatures over 100 feet down are a reflection of average temperatures on the surface.


computer models = license to invent


This work supports some of the information of the computer models. It backs them up. It provides further information with which to refine them even further. This is how science works.

It is why all the internationally recognized scientific bodies recognize AGW as a legitimate part of how climate works. The theory of AGW is based on the observed facts. Not facts gathered afterwards to support the theory or just to contradict it.

The broad base of information across many disciplines show a definite trend that is the result of warming.

Good work axil on finding the name of the actual project and not just spreading the usual stuff.

Andrey Levin

Two things to note.

Over last 7.5 thousand years, as Earth recovers from last Ice Age, sea levels rose with average speed 1/16 inches per year, or 1.5 millimeter per year. There is no sea level rise acceleration due to AGW, as confirmed by presented research.

Second, computer climate models are tuned post-factum to comply with historic temperature data, which is directly correlated with sea level rise. No wonder that climate models are in good agreement with sea level rise – in the past. For future, climate models still have zero forecasting and predicting ability beyond 1 week period.


uh, read the title. The computer models are underestimating whats happening, not the other way around.

Vincent R. Katter

Correction on the 'Argo buoys showing cooling' information -

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