Thursday, November 28, 2013

Global Warming Heat Widget at Skeptical Science

My friends at Skeptical Science have produced a web gadget, global warming counter, that can be embedded on blogs and websites, as I have done here for the right panel. The counter is a reminder that global warming is about the total heat in the climate system that is accruing mainly in the oceans, probably due to the dominance of la Nina conditions over the past decade. It is also possible that surface temperature stations fail to sample the poles adequately, which is where warming is expected to be more abrupt. Many skeptics have have pointed out the slow rise in surface temperatures (or lack of rise, depending on which data set is their favorite) over the past 15 years and proclaimed that global warming has stopped. The kindest response to the "warming has stopped" claim is that it is simply wrong and repeated without examination. Less kind, some people repeating the claim are ignoring the larger reservoir of ocean heat and the net lost of sea and surface ice during this time, the extended solar minimum, and volcanic aerosols. Therefore, they are being disingenuous.

A fair criticism is that many climate models predicted a greater temperature rise. This is scientifically interesting but not surprising, and this question is being examined in the peer-reviewed science.

In producing the ocean heat widget, Skeptical Science acknowledges that bombs aren't really going off in the ocean; therefore, it's an analogy, not a scientific description. But the analogy is an measure using a unit that is both large enough to describe the quantity of energy at work and within the comprehension of most people who will hear the un-examined claim that global warming has stopped.

By the way, I drew the globe, and I do recognize the the Earth is not truly hollow and filling like a bowl. I hope the metaphor reminds people that the bomb analogy has the qualities of an analogy: not the real description but a useful metric among a population that does not have a ready appreciation for Joules, or other units of energy.


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