Posted by: ericgrimsrud | September 7, 2013

Has the Earth’s temperature stopped increasing?

One hears or reads the claim that the Earth’s temperature is no longer increasing – or even that it is decreasing – very often these days in the public media.  As a scientist who knows that this cannot be – given the physical principles that control the Earth’s energy balance  – I am always on the lookout for presentations that lay unwarranted “happy science” notions such as this one to rest.  I have found such a presentation and urge you to watch it at:

The central point this video makes is that most of the extra heat the Earth has to absorb due to its increasing levels of green house gases goes into the oceans – while claims of no or little warming during the last decade  have been based entirely on surface temperature measurements.   The temperature of Earth’s surfaces reflect only a small fraction of the total excess heat uptake of the Earth, however.  In addition, small increases in surface temperature can be partially or even entirely negated  by short-term natural variations for both warming and cooling over a period of several years.  In order to measure the total heat increase of the Earth, temperature measurements of the oceans at all depths are required.  Such measurements, both direct and indirect (sea level), are increasingly being provided and to no one’s surprise, we see that the total heat content of the Earth is increasing tremendously – at a rate equivalent to that of about 400,000 Hiroshima-type nuclear bombs per day!

All of this is consistent with well- known physical principles determining the Earth’s total heat content – while undue emphasis is placed on short-term changes in surface temperatures by the deniers of man-caused warming.  Their misinterpretation of those measurements has provided the deniers with their favorite weapon in deceiving the public.  Using surface temperatures only would be analogous to using temperature measurements of your little toe to see if you had a fever! These Deniers appear to have no respect for the intelligence of the public – which now hopefully knows more than they do.

So please do have a look at the video referred to above.  It clarifies this central point as well as any presentation I have seen.


  1. Courtesy of The Christian Science Monitor: “Why has global warming paused? Pacific Ocean’s ‘engine room’ running cool. (+video).” Go to

    [Response from EPG] Yes Dave that is also a good article concerning this issue. It’s contents are in line with the video in my post and also makes the additional useful point that natural variations not as easily modeled as are the systematic, constant, and relentless effects of increase greenhouse gas heating ]

  2. Eric,
    You got me shaking my head in astonishment when you said:
    “As a scientist who knows that this cannot be – given the physical principles that control the Earth’s energy balance.”

    Such misplaced conviction reminds me of the great Lord Kelvin who famously stated:
    “There is nothing new to be discovered in physics now. All that remains is more and more precise measurement.”

    Kelvin made that statement when he was past his prime. In his earlier days he was much sharper:
    “If you cannot measure it, then it is not science.”

    According to the video in your post, Earth’s energy balance is positive so the average global temperature must increase. James Hansen quantifies the imbalance at 0.6 Watts per square meter. That is a huge imbalance so why are surface temperatures falling?

    Trenberth says that the oceans are absorbing the “Missing Heat” and they are doing it in the surface layers where we can measure it using the Argo buoys.

    If this was true we would see a sharp decrease in continental ice cover and an acceleration in the rate of sea level rise due to thermal expansion as well as ice melt. Observations (satellites and tide guages) show that sea level is rising at roughly one foot per century as it has for the last 5,000 years. Continental ice is melting at a rate of ~300 giga-tonnes per year so it will take at least 10,000 years to melt all of it.

    Dr. Scamos laughably stated that arctic ice was vanishing even though observations show the opposite. Last month arctic ice cover was 60% greater than a year ago:

    Eric, you need to wake up and smell the roses. CO2 is not a pollutant. It enhances agricultural productivity. The automobile dramatically reduced pollution by replacing horses; as a result New York is no longer knee deep in horse s**t.

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