Wednesday, July 27, 2016
Climate models are accurately predicting ocean and global warming: A new study from my colleagues and I vindicates climate models, which are accurately predicting the rate of ocean heat accumulation
It's good old Prof. Abraham back at the barrow below. He says that the estimates of global warming yielded by climate models are validated by measurements of heat present. But the measures of heat are themselves estimates -- so all he has shown is that two sets of estimates tally. Not hard to do of course but it proves nothing. It's not even a good con trick
For those of us who are concerned about global warming, two of the most critical questions we ask are, “how fast is the Earth warming?” and “how much will it warm in the future?”.
The first question can be answered in a number of ways. For instance, we can actually measure the rate of energy increase in the Earth’s system (primarily through measuring changing ocean temperatures). Alternatively, we can measure changes in the net inflow of heat at the top of the atmosphere using satellites. We can also measure the rate of sea-level rise to get an estimate of the warming rate.
Since much of sea-level rise is caused by thermal expansion of water, knowledge of the water-level rise allows us to deduce the warming rate. We can also use climate models (which are sophisticated computer calculations of the Earth’s climate) or our knowledge from Earth’s past (paleoclimatology).
Many studies use combinations of these study methods to attain estimates and typically the estimates are that the planet is warming at a rate of perhaps 0.5 to 1 Watt per square meter of Earth’s surface area. However, there is some discrepancy among the actual numbers.
So assuming we know how much heat is being accumulated by the Earth, how can we predict what the future climate will be? The main tool for this is climate models (although there are other independent ways we can study the future). With climate models, we can play “what-if scenarios” and input either current conditions or hypothetical conditions and watch the Earth’s climate evolve within the simulation.
Two incorrect but nevertheless consistent denial arguments are that the Earth isn’t warming and that climate models are inaccurate. A new study, published by Kevin Trenberth, Lijing Cheng, and others (I was also an author) answers these questions.
The study was just published in the journal Ocean Sciences; a draft of it is available here. In this study, we did a few new things. First, we presented a new estimate of ocean heating throughout its full depth (most studies only consider the top portion of the ocean). Second, we used a new technique to learn about ocean temperature changes in areas where there are very few measurements. Finally, we used a large group of computer models to predict warming rates, and we found excellent agreement between the predictions and the measurements.
According to the measurements, the Earth has gained 0.46 Watts per square meter between 1970 and 2005. Since, 1992 the rate is higher (0.75 Watts per square meter) and therefore shows an acceleration of the warming. To put this in perspective, this is the equivalent of 5,400,000,000,000 (or 5,400 billion) 60-watt light bulbs running continuously day and night. In my view, these numbers are the most accurate measurements of the rate at which the Earth is warming.
What about the next question – how did the models do? Amazingly well. From 1970 through 2005, the models on average showed a warming of 0.41 Watts per square meter and from 1992-2005 the models gave 0.77 Watts per meter squared. This means that since 1992, the models have been within 3 % of the measurements. In my mind, this agreement is the strongest vindication of the models ever found, and in fact, in our study we suggest that matches between climate models and ocean warming should be a major test of the models.