Global Warming Changes in Heat Content

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Some people tend to think of Global Warming in term of air temperatures on the surface of the earth. However, the earth is composed of many more things that can absorb heat energy. Interestingly, there is not as much coverage on all the other parts of the earth as they don’t have as much of an impact on our daily lives. The IPCC Technical Summary has some good technical information of where and how the globe is warming.

On page 47 is Figure TS.15, which list the changes of earths energy content (heating) in terms of 10^22 joules between 1961 to 2003. By far the largest component of the earths energy system are the Oceans. Not just the surface of the oceans, but their entire depth. Ice Caps and Glaciers are other notable components as is the soil of the continents as well. It is a simple matter to convert these values to percentages as shown the following:

Percent of Heating (1961-2003)
Oceans 89.3%
Continents 4.8%
Atmosphere 3.1%
Glaciers 1.4%
Arctic Sea Ice 0.9%
Antarctic 0.4%
Greenland 0.1%
TOTAL 100.0%

Notice that while the atmosphere has warmed, both the oceans and land have absorbed more heat. Also, all the different forms of ice have totaled about 2.4%, a significant amount compared to the atmosphere’s 3.1% share. To put this into perspective, the rest of the earth has absorbed 30 times as much heat as the atmosphere!

Also, I’ve noticed some clumsy skeptics like to suggest that global warming is due to changes in the earth’s oceans, implying that the atmosphere has warmed because less heat is being absorbed by the oceans. However, as can be seen from above, just the opposite is true. In fact every major component of the earth is warming and the oceans have been absorbing the bulk of it.

It’s also interesting to consider how the oceans warm. Warm water is less dense and tends to float on the surface, while the deepest water is the coldest. This make it difficult to transport heat energy into the depths of the oceans and theoretically it would be possible for a stagnant condition to occur. That is the surface waters could warm significantly without heating the depths. Normally heat is transported to the depths from mixing thru wind and wave action along with the meridional overturning circulation. However, long term records of the relative strengths of these processes are sparse and I suspect that computer models are all over the place with predictions. Of course, the science will gradually advance to better understand the coming changes, but I suspect there will be some surprises along the way.

Skyhunter" [Broken] is a NASA article on ocean cooling.

On a Thursday evening in February 2007, Josh Willis stood in front of his laptop, his wife cajoling him to get ready to go out to dinner. He looked with a sinking feeling at the map he had just made. Willis, a scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, specializes in making estimates of how much heat the ocean stores from year to year.
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Great article from NASA, but the actual title is "Correcting Ocean Cooling."

Josh Willis, published a paper showing that the Oceans had cooled between 2003 to 2005. That is possible, but surprising since the there has been an overall global warming during that period as measured from outer space. It took him a while, but eventually he found errors in 2 differant types of ocean temperature measurement devices.

“So the new Argo data were too cold, and the older XBT data were too warm, and together, they made it seem like the ocean had cooled,” says Willis. The February evening he discovered the mistake, he says, is “burned into my memory.” He was supposed to fly to Colorado that weekend to give a talk on “ocean cooling” to prominent climate researchers. Instead, he’d be talking about how it was all a mistake.
Notice that while there are some variations over time, the net warming trend is still in place and by far the dominate component of the earth that is warming are the oceans. Also, it is when the oceans cool (or gain less heat) that the atmosphere tends to warm the most.

Some critics have mistakenly suggested that when the atmosphere cools, it's a sign that global warming has reversed. However, what they forget is that it is during these times that the oceans are warming at an accelerated rate. In other words, it is not just the atmopshere that needs to be considered when discussing GLOBAL warming. The Oceans are actually the dominate component of the globe, while Land and Ice are about the same order of magnitude as the atmosphere. All four components need to be considered.
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Your point is well taken Xnn. I was merely providing the latest data in support.

The oceans are absorbing the bulk of the net +3W/m2 imbalance between incoming and outgoing radiation.

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