New Paper “Ocean Heat Content And Earth’s Radiation Imbalance II. Relation To Climate Shifts” By Douglass And Knox 2012

I am pleased to announce a very important new paper which effectively uses the ocean heat data analyses to assess shifts in the Earth’s radiation imbalance. The paper is

D.H. Douglass, R.S. Knox, 2012: Ocean heat content and Earth’s radiation imbalance. II. Relation to climate shifts. Physics Letters A. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.physleta.2012.02.027 [see the full paper on David's website here]

The abstract reads

“In an earlier study of ocean heat content (OHC) we showed that Earth’s empirically implied radiation imbalance has undergone abrupt changes. Other studies have identified additional such climate shifts since 1950. The shifts can be correlated with features in recently updated OHC data. The implied radiation imbalance may possibly alternate in sign at dates close to the climate shifts. The most recent shifts occurred during 2001–2002 and 2008–2009. The implied radiation imbalance between these dates, in the direction of ocean heat loss, was −0.03 ± 0.06 W/m2, with  possible systematic error of [−0.00,+0.09] W/m2.”

The conclusion has the text

“….we emphasize the importance of recognizing climate shifts. In particular, it is unsound to calculate a slope across a climate shift. The paper of Lyman et al. [14] is a case in point. These authors reported a radiative imbalance of 0.63 ± 0.28 W/m2 over the period 1993–2008. This was based on an oversimplified interpretation of the data. The OHC data they considered has a steep slope from 1993 to about 2001–2002, after which there is, in their words, a “flattening”, which is identified in the present Letter as the result of the climate shift of 2001–2002. Thus, their estimate of radiation imbalance has little meaning because their slope spans the associated discontinuity……

Since 2002 the implied radiation imbalance is close to zero. The “pause” or “hiatus” in OHC on which this is based has been recognized numerous times in the recent literature, but its implications for the concept of “missing energy” and the theoretical predictions of radiation imbalance have almost never been brought out.”

This paper is an important much-needed assessment of the climate system, and illustrates, for example, the inadequacies of using linear trends over multi-decadal time periods, as well as the value of using ocean heat data as the metric to assess global average radiative imbalance. I recommend the entire paper be read.

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