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AAX8HP Elk214 2909 Hawaii Hawaii Kona coast palm trees blowing in wind

Palm trees blow in fierce winds on Hawaii's Kona Coast. Since the 1990s, the winds have strengthened by as much as 50 percent in some areas.

PHOTOGRAPH JOHN ELK III, ALAMY  

Ben Jervey

for National Geographic

Published February 11, 2014

A lot of the energy from global warming has been hiding lately under the surface of the Pacific Ocean—and in the future it will come back out in a burst of heat, a new study concludes.

The study published in Nature Climate Change finds that equatorial trade winds have been blowing harder over the Pacific for the past two decades, forcing more heat down into the ocean.

Since 2001, the average air temperature at Earth's surface has risen more slowly than it did in previous decades. Climate change skeptics have seized upon the "pause" to argue that global warming has stopped, using the current cold winter in the U.S. to buttress their case.

Global warming clearly hasn't stopped—the ten hottest years on record have all occurred since 1998, with 2010 being the hottest ever. But climate scientists are nonetheless trying to understand why the atmosphere has been warming more slowly than before, even as concentrations of heat-trapping greenhouse gases have continued to rise.

A growing body of research suggests that some of the missing heat has been going into the Pacific.

Trading Heat

The new study was led by Matthew England of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science. He and his colleagues used observations and detailed computer simulations to tease out the effect of trade winds on surface temperatures. As the winds blow west along the Equator, they push warm water ahead of them, piling it up in a warm pool in the western Pacific.

Since the 1990s, the winds have strengthened by as much as 50 percent in some areas. The "strong trade winds," says study co-author Gerald Meehl of the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research, "are bringing cooler water to the surface in the equatorial Pacific and mixing more heat into the deeper ocean."

In effect, the researchers say, the missing heat from global warming is being stored in a deeper warm pool in the western Pacific. England and his colleagues calculated that the stronger trade winds have reduced the global average surface temperature by 0.1-0.2 degrees Celsius (0.18-0.36 degrees Fahrenheit)—enough, they write, "to account for much of the hiatus in surface warming observed since 2001."

"Without the 20 or so years of strengthened wind," says England, "we would've seen quite significant warming over the past decade."

What Goes Down, Must Come Up

The intensification of the trade winds results in part from a natural El Nino-like climate cycle called the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation, England says. But the extent of it is unprecedented in the observational record, and it's not fully understood. Figuring out the cause of the intensification is important: It might allow researchers to predict when the winds will slack off again, allowing the heat now stored in the Pacific to come belching out again.

"You can't keep pumping heat into the ocean," says England, "shoveling it in year after year, without eventually seeing that heat interacting again with the atmosphere and warming the atmosphere.

"In due course, the atmosphere will warm up as though the hiatus never occurred. But regardless of when it ends—in a couple of years or in a whole decade—our research suggests the warming will be quite rapid."

35 comments
David Shelton
David Shelton

Apparently we're losing about 140 cubic miles of ice world wide per year - about 533 million tons. That's a heck of an ice cube to cool our drinks. Given that ice has a latent heat of 80 cal per gram (80 cals to get ice at 0C to water at 0C), it'd be interesting to get a calculation of whether that heat sink is big enough to affect earth's overall rate of heating.

Scott Manning
Scott Manning

Here is some interesting Science:


There are 1.35 x 10^18 metric tons of seawater in the oceans

There are 5.14 x 10^15 metric tons of air in the atmosphere


The Heat Capacity of water is over 4x that of air. It takes 4x as much energy to raise 1 kg of water 1 degree as it does to raise 1kg of air 1 degree.


There is 262x more seawater than air by mass on the planet. The water holds over 4x as much heat by unit of mass.


That means the heat sink of the ocean is over 1000x that of the atmosphere,


IF, as this article states, the heat from the atmosphere is being diverted into the ocean, into the deep ocean in fact, that is indeed cause for celebration.


Enough solar energy to raise  the atmosphere 1 degree is only going to raise ocean temps .001 degree. And the lack of wind will hardly cause that heat to "belch forth".




You alarmists can resume your freakout

Jan Freed
Jan Freed

How could global warming possibly stop?  Did CO2 ppm go down? NO.  Does CO2 suddenly stop trapping energy? No. That is simply due to the molecular structure of CO2. 

The only question is where does the extra energy go.  This article helps to explain that.

Jan Freed
Jan Freed

A billion dollars will buy a lot of phony denial.  It will kill us.

Jan Freed
Jan Freed

A billion dollars/year will buy a lot of phony denial.  This junk will fill up every collection of comments on every article on climate. Business as usual.

   It will kill us if we delay, but will bring fossil fuel profits to the industry.   The professional deniers have no shame.  Conscience is simply missing.  Tragic.

Gary Levitan
Gary Levitan

wow....this doesn't sound at all like religion does it? Wait wait....you can see planets and stars through a telescope....um....um....God created those too.

Tom Mariner
Tom Mariner

Hey global warming advocates -- blame yourselves. You hired a failed politician to be your spokesman and he promptly turned it into a bonanza for his Democrats.


His attacks that Republicans were uncaring neanderthals were effective ... at getting his party elected. But a disaster for the global warming scientists who have been trying to warn us. it's too late now, but for the next crisis to affect our planet -- keep control of your message -- politicians ALWAYS have an agenda and it is ALWAYS them.

James Lucier
James Lucier

"In effect, the researchers say, the missing heat from global warming is being stored in a deeper warm pool in the western Pacific"  

 I hope these statements are backed up by some actual data from deep in the ocean, else they are just speculation, right?

John Caro
John Caro

In the summer of 1995 I served on the USNS Tippicanoe in the Persian Gulf. We had temps of 138 degrees in the shade. People can't survive long in those conditions.  It only takes one heatwave to kill you. The following winter it may snow on your bones but you will be dead. Thats why Global Warming is so dangerous. By the way, Air conditioning stops working in extreme heat. Ours went out at 125 degrees.

m s
m s

Love the idiots who claim this isn't real just because they don't understand how this works. This is where the heat exchanges when the seasons change. It comes back out from the ocean as well as from the sun which typically causes higher heatwaves. The more heat that's stored the more is released thats the basis for the whole model. The more heat that's stored the more cold snaps we'll have. Duh.


So while they're sitting around being idiots our world is going down the toilet because they want to argue politics. remember folks it's only less than 1% of the scientists in the field that don't believe in Global Warming, the other 99% do and have realized it's potential.

scott wright
scott wright

So, "the missing heat from global warming is being stored in a deeper warm pool in the western Pacific". Did anyone think to get a thermometer and check?Like do some real field research versus computer models with assumptions that include the researcher’s bias. This is just more hype trying to salvage flawed climate change research that does not reflect what has actually happened.

Eric Harmon
Eric Harmon

OMG.  Once again showing that their models are no more right than your local weather man.  20 years of some wind increase as compared to WHAT?  The 50 years of accurate records kept around the world on the subject, mainly since WW2 in these island places.  Models based on hypothesis not on actual situations.  "Enough, they write, "to account for much of the hiatus in surface warming observed since 2001."  So it has been slowed for 13 years not the two this article suggests?  I love how the scientists can state that they don't fully understand it yet say that man made global warming is a fact.  We are ants on the Earth back people. There is nothing happening now that hasn't happened before.  Anybody ever heard of the DUST BOWL?  That was 80 years before global warming alarmists.

Kenneth Sandale
Kenneth Sandale

@Scott Manning


You got the physics wrong, Scott.


The rise in the ocean's temperature is indeed tiny because of its large heat capacity and large volume.  But when the oceans eventually give back that energy, a tiny drop in their temperature, because of that large heat capacity and that large volume, will lead to a huge increase in air temperature.


If your reasoning were correct you could put N joules of energy into the ocean, and when you removed that same amount of energy you would be pulling out way less than N joules of energy--your belief can quickly be seen to have to be wrong because it violates conservation of energy.

Harold Seneker
Harold Seneker

@Jan Freed  

The fact is, there has been global warming, but the contribution of human-generated carbon dioxide is necessarily so minuscule as to be nearly undetectable. Here's why:

Carbon dioxide, considered the main vector for human-caused global warming, is some 0.038% of the atmosphere[1]- a trace gas. Water vapor varies from 0% to 4%[2], and should easily average 1% or more[3] near the Earth’s surface, where the greenhouse effect would be most important, and is about three times more effective[4] a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. So water vapor is at least 25 times more prevalent and three times more effective; that makes it at least 75 times more important to the greenhouse effect than carbon dioxide[5]. The TOTAL contribution of carbon dioxide to the greenhouse effect is therefore 0.013 or less. The total human contribution to atmospheric carbon dioxide since the start of the industrial revolution has been estimated at about 25%[6]. So humans’ carbon dioxide  greenhouse effect is a quarter of 0.013, works out to about 0.00325. Total warming of the Earth by the greenhouse effect is widely accepted as about 33 degrees Centigrade or 59 degrees Fahrenheit. So the contribution of anthropogenic carbon dioxide is less than 0.2 degrees Fahrenheit, or under 0.1 degree Centigrade. Global warming over the last century is thought by many to be about 0.6 degrees Centigrade.


But that's only the beginning. We've had global warming for more than 10,000 years, since the end of the last Ice Age[7]. Whatever caused that, it was not human activity. It was not all those power plants and factories and SUVs being operated by Stone Age cavemen while chipping arrowheads out of bits of flint. Whatever the cause was, it melted the glaciers that in North America once extended south to Long Island and parts of New York City[8] into virtually complete disappearance (except for a few mountain remnants). That's one big greenhouse effect! If we are still having global warming - and I suppose we should presume we are, given a 10,000 year trend - it seems highly likely that it is still the overwhelmingly primary cause of continued warming, rather than our piddling 0.00325 contribution to the greenhouse effect.


Yet even that trend-continuation needs to be proved. Evidence is that the Medieval Warm Period centered on the 1200s was somewhat warmer than we are now[9], and the climate was clearly colder in the Little Ice Age in the 1600s than it is now[10]. So we are within the range of normal up-and-down fluctuations without human greenhouse contributions that could be significant, or even measurable.


The principal scientists arguing for human-caused global warming have been demonstrably disingenuous[11], and now you can see why. They have proved they should not be trusted. 


The idea that we should be spending hundreds of billions of dollars and hamstringing the economy of the entire world to reduce carbon dioxide emissions is beyond ludicrous in light of the facts above; it is insane. Furthermore, it sucks attention and resources from seeking the other sources of warming and from coping with climate change and its effects in realistic ways.The true motivation underlying the global warming movement is almost certainly ideological and political in nature, and I predict that Anthropomorphic Global Warming, as currently presented, will go down as the greatest fraud of all time. It makes Ponzi and Madoff look like pikers by comparison.



[1] Fundamentals of Physical Geography, 2nd Edition
by Michael Pidwirny
Concentration varies slightly with the growing season in the northern hemisphere.  HYPERLINK "http://www.physicalgeography.net/fundamentals/7a.html" http://www.physicalgeography.net/fundamentals/7a.html

[2] ibid.

[3] HALOE v2.0 Upper Tropospheric Water Vapor Climatology Claudette Ojo, Hampton University; et al..  HYPERLINK "http://vsgc.odu.edu/src/Conf09/UnderGrad%20Papers/Ojo%20-%20Paper.pdf" http://vsgc.odu.edu/src/Conf09/UnderGrad%20Papers/Ojo%20-%20Paper.pdf. See p. 4.The 0 - 4% range is widely accepted among most sources. This source is listed for its good discussion of the phenomena determining that range. An examination of a globe will show that tropical oceans (near high end of range) are far more extensive than the sum of the earth’s arctic and antarctic regions and tropical-zone deserts (all near the low end). Temperate zone oceans are far more extensive than temperate-zone desert.  This author’s guess of an average of 2% or more seems plausible. I have used “1% or more” in an effort to err on the side of understatement. 

[4 NIST Chemistry Webbook, Please compare the IR absorption spectra of water and carbon dioxide. ]  HYPERLINK "http://webbook.nist.gov/" http://webbook.nist.gov/

[5] Three quarters of the atmosphere and virtually all water vapor are in the troposphere. Including all the atmosphere would change the ratios to about 20 times more prevalent and 60 times more effective. However, the greenhouse effect of high-altitude carbon dioxide on lower-altitude weather and the earth’s surface seems likely to be small if not nil.

[6] National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.  HYPERLINK "http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/climate/gases.html" http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/climate/gases.html. The estimated 90ppm increase in carbon dioxide, 30% above the base of 280  ppm, to a recent reading of 370 ppm, equates to just under 25% of present concentration, the relevant factor in estimating present contribution to the greenhouse effect.

[7] Oak Ridge National Laboratory http://www.esd.ornl.gov/projects/qen/nerc130k.html

[8] New York Nature - The nature and natural history of the New York City region. Betsy McCully http://www.newyorknature.net/IceAge.html

[9]Global Warming: A Geological Perspective John P. Bluemle HYPERLINK "https://www.dmr.nd.gov/ndgs/Newsletter/NL99W/PDF/globlwrmw99.pdf" https://www.dmr.nd.gov/ndgs/Newsletter/NL99W/PDF/globlwrmw99.pdf This article, published by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Agency, is drawn from a paper by the author in Environmental Geosciences, 1999, Volume 6, Number 2, pp. 63-75. Note particularly the chart on p.4.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Wikileaks: Climatic Research Unit emails, data, models, 1996-2009  HYPERLINK "http://wikileaks.org/wiki/Climatic_Research_Unit_emails,_data,_models,_1996-2009" http://wikileaks.org/wiki/Climatic_Research_Unit_emails,_data,_models,_1996-2009

See also  HYPERLINK "http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1246661/New-scandal-Climate-Gate-scientists-accused-hiding-data-global-warming-sceptics.html" http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1246661/New-scandal-Climate-Gate-scientists-accused-hiding-data-global-warming-sceptics.html and

HYPERLINK "http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704075604575356611173414140.html" http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704075604575356611173414140.html and, more diplomatically:  HYPERLINK "http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/01/science/01tier.html" http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/01/science/01tier.html. Et al.



David Young
David Young

Tom, do you have any literate friends who could counsel you on your comments? 

Todd Brown
Todd Brown

@Tom Mariner I do not think anyone supports Climate Change.  There are those that accept the science and those who are deniers of the facts.  No let me change that some of the deniers say great look at all the land in Canada that will warm up, but neglect all the equatorial land that will no longer be able to support the population on those lands.

I remember an event I was in that was themed "Paddling for Poverty" but really we were Paddling Against Poverty.

John Smith
John Smith

@Tom Mariner Yes, Dems are to blame for the fact that Republicans are controlled for by corporatists who only care more about turning a quick profit than the long-term health of the planet.  Al Gore did not turn Global Warming into a political issue.  It has always been one. 

Todd Brown
Todd Brown

@James LucierYou can go to Science magazine, November 1st 2013 and the article Pacific Ocean Heat Content During the Past 10,000 Years and yes, the deep water in the Pacific ocean is heating up.  For the past decade or so the deep oceans are not as cold as they used to be, the surface currents soak up extra heat and when they subduct to become deep water currents they give up their heat to the waters along the seabed.

Todd Brown
Todd Brown

@John Caro A close friend was stationed on the USS Reid in the Persian Gulf in the months leading up to Operation: Desert Storm.  He had some very colorful ways to describe the weather, that can't be written here.  

Readers can Google "Thermal Equator" and then look at the weather in Chennai, India look at the temperatures and then factor in the dew point in the upper 70's.

I wish I had at hand some of the Mil Specs that were written in order to test items for uses along the Gulf.  People do live in the Middle East, but the population density is low, there is no way a fertile area will be able to produce enough food when it heats up like the Gulf.

Kenneth Sandale
Kenneth Sandale

@scott wright


"Did anyone think to get a thermometer and check?Like do some real field research versus computer models with assumptions that include the researcher’s bias. This is just more hype trying to salvage flawed climate change research that does not reflect what has actually happened"


How did you conclude that no one "got a thermometer"?


It is interesting that you decry people supposedly reaching conclusions without actually verifying...in a post where you do the very thing you decry.

Todd Brown
Todd Brown

@scott wright How do you know no one has done the experiments?  Sorry you should look for the data before saying it does not exist.  There is a peer reviewed article in Science with the temperatures.

John Patt
John Patt

@scott wright  The water warming is just like refrigerators only in reverse. The fridge cools the air which then cools your beer. Those who deny this deny cold beer.

Manuel Benitez
Manuel Benitez

@scott wright  This is a good question but one that scientists have already answered. We know that the oceans are warming without having to stick a thermometer in every square inch of them because sea levels are steadily rising (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Current_sea_level_rise) at 3mm per year currently and that rate has been itself rising.


Scientists may still be trying to understand exactly where the heat will go and at what rates and what factors affect the heat transfer, but there is no doubt that the heat is here and its capture rate is increasing year by year. Certainty in exactly how much heat will go into the atmosphere vs. the oceans is not a requirement for taking action.

Eliot Walter
Eliot Walter

@scott wright  Maritime vessels routinely make surface measurements and  have done such for a long time,  but those early measurements, by means of a bucket lifted over the side of a ship in shipping lanes sampled only the very surface, not even the top layer (0-700 meters) That made for not the best of data. The more accurate ARGO buoy data (to 2000 meters depth) is also spotty due to lack of buoys, so even if we were to install millions of ARGOs we would have to collect data from them for years to make an accurate computer model. With 100billion dollars and ten years we could put the thermometer(s) in the water.  Now we are only putting 800 a year in the water.  http://www.argo.ucsd.edu/FAQ.html

Eliot Walter
Eliot Walter

@Eric Harmon  The dust bowl may not be the best example as the dust was caused by poor agricultural practices in a semiarid area.  We removed the deep-rooted native grasses and tilled the topsoil and over-grazed, and when the cyclical drought occurred the topsoil blew away.  They knew it was anthropogenic and President FDR stated working on programs to mitigate it as soon as he was in office in 1933 and in 1936 Congress passed the Soil Conservation and Domestic Allotment Act.
My point is that we had to DO SOMETHING to PREVENT the DUST BOWL from happening AGAIN, as we have to keep CO2 CH4 and CFCs from increasing to unsafe levels.

Todd Brown
Todd Brown

@Eric Harmon We are more than ants, man has been able to measurable slow the rotation of the earth by storing water in reservoirs.  Sorry you are cherry picking your data.

John Smith
John Smith

@Eric Harmon Models based on observations from ships at sea date back much farther than 50 years. For centuries, ocean winds powered global trade and commerce.  There is a huge amount of data available that dates back hundreds of years.


Not fully understanding how our planet will distribute the heat caused by global warming is not the same thing as not fully understanding global warming.  We can measure the increase in greenhouse gases in our atmosphere.  We know that these gases are responsible for trapping heat.  The naturally-occurring greenhouse effect is what makes all life on Earth possible.  But by putting more of these greenhouse gases in our atmosphere, we are accelerating the effect. 

Manuel Benitez
Manuel Benitez

@Eric Harmon  The dust bowl was caused by man and was a result of short-sighted agricultural practices that destroyed the natural grasses that would normally prevent extensive wind erosion during dry years. Fortunately, we learned enough from the 1930's Midwest episode to change some of our worst farming practices and avoid more episodes. Hopefully, we will pay attention to the signs that are telling us that we are creating another much worse, global ecological disaster and take corrective action to avoid the worst.


We are NOT ants. We are causing this ecological problem problem and we can solve it. It just requires us to stop denying the truth and exercise some will.

Scott Manning
Scott Manning

@Kenneth Sandale @Scott Manning  

Its Thermodynamics, not Physics, and it is in no way wrong.

You must not have the faintest idea how heat transfer works.


My "reasoning" is basic math. Should the oceans give back energy, yes, the atmosphere would heat up more quickly.


The wind not blowing will not cause the ocean to give back all that energy rapidly, that conclusion is preposterous.


I'd also like to give a shout out to a some dimwits on a certain football message board


Hi guise

John Caro
John Caro

@Todd Brown @John Caro I served on the USNS Passumpsic in Desert Storm. We arrived Jan. 18 and stayed until after the war ended. It was winter and it was cold. I guess thats how it works, hot in the summer and cold in the winter. You would never know it if you listened to the idiots this winter though.  The people living in the arab countries depend on other countrys to feed them. Thanks to oil money the standard of living is pretty high. When that runs out I guess it will be back to camels. 

Charlie Sharpless
Charlie Sharpless

@Scott Manning

Short (not shirt) addition to my other comment. As the surface ocean warms, stratification between the deep and surface waters becomes more significant, and you will end up with a much smaller effective volume of water that undergoes heat exchange with the atmosphere on the decadal/centennial time scale.

Charlie Sharpless
Charlie Sharpless

Your analysis assumes that the oceans are perfectly mixed on shirt time scales, which is not correct. The mixing time of the oceans is on the order of several hundred years, and I believe it exceeds 1000 years for the deep oceans. The mixing time of the troposphere, by contrast, is about a year. So, your "thermodynamics" argument (which ignores variations in heat capacity with pressure and temperature) also needs to include my "physics" argument (which ignores regional variations in mixing time scales and stratification effects). The naive analysis in which we are engaging suggests that the mixing time scale difference should almost perfectly offset the total heat capacity (J per °C, incorporating the masses, not J per g per °C, known as the specific heat capacity, which you refer to as Heat Capacity).

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