The Significance of the E-Mail Interchange with Kevin Trenberth and Josh Willis

On Friday of last week, and Monday and Tuesday of this week, I presented the following posts:

Further Feedback From Kevin Trenberth And Feedback From Josh Willis On The UCAR Press Release

Comments On Two Papers By Kevin Trenberth On The Global Climate Energy Budget

Is There “Missing” Heat In The Climate System? My Comments On This NCAR Press Release

My son had the post

The Missing Heat

I want to summarize today what are the main conclusions from this exchange of perspectives:

  • First, when colleagues who differ can interact in a constructive manner, we all benefit by an improved understanding of the science issues and the way forward to resolve remaining uncertainties.
  • In terms of climate science, a very substantive conclusion from this interchange of perspectives is that we do not need to continue to use the global average surface temperature trend (with its unresolved biases and uncertainties) to diagnose global warming. The trends in the upper ocean heat content, which has been accurately measured since at least 2005, and will for the foreseeable future, should be adopted as the primary metric to monitor global warming.

This second finding does not mean continued analyses of surface temperatures and their anomalies are not needed [they certainly are for length of growing season, heating degree days, etc], but for the specific metric of global warming (and cooling), it is an inadequate metric compared with ocean heat content changes.

We need near-real time plots of the ocean heat content changes over time, such as given in the figure in

Pielke Sr., R.A., 2008: A broader view of the role of humans in the climate system. Physics Today, 61, Vol. 11, 54-55.

Four-year rate of the global upper 700 m of ocean heat changes in Joules at monthly time intervals. One standard error value is also shown. (Figure courtesy of Josh Willis of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory).

It will be illuminating and informative to see how NCDC (Tom Karl), GISS (Jim Hansen), and CRU (Phil Jones)  respond to this recognition that it is time to move past the surface temperature trend as the “gold standard” of global warming.

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