Why ocean heat can’t drive climate change, only chase it
Blaming global warming on the oceans – a basic rebuttal
The argument attributing the warming of the Earth to heat being released by the oceans was clearly articulated by William M Gray, one of the world’s foremost experts on tropical storms. Unfortunately, his views on oceans and their part in global warming appear to contradict the published science. Gray believes that the increased atmospheric heat – which he calls a ‘small warming’ – is “…likely a result of the natural alterations in global ocean currents which are driven by ocean salinity variations.” (BBC Interview 2000)
The problem with Gray’s argument is that unless more heat was being poured into the oceans, they would be obliged by the laws of physics to cool when heat was transferred to the atmosphere.
80% of the heat in the planet’s ecosystem is stored in the oceans, and they have been getting consistently warmer over time (Ocean cooling: skeptic arguments drowned by data). There would also be other indicators e.g. sea levels, which would be static or go down by some small amount as a result of thermal contraction. There are no indicators of ocean heat driving temperature changes that are supported by the evidence. It should also be noted that Gray has never published, nor offered any proof, of these theories, so his views are purely speculative.
Claims that AGW is due to heat being released from the oceans into the atmosphere are not supported by any empirical evidence or peer-reviewed science.
Footnote: this post was written for SkepticalScience as part of an ongoing project to add ‘basic’ rebuttals of common climate change denial arguments. References for all statements can be found in the intermediate discussion It’s the ocean.