Ocean Surface Temps–How Low Will They Go?


Ocean temperature measurements come from a global array of 3,500 Argo floats and other ocean sensors. Credits: Argo Program, Germany/Ifremer

We have seen lots of claims about the temperature records for 2016 and 2015 proving dangerous man made warming.  At least one senator stated that in a confirmation hearing.  Now that HadSST3 data is complete through February 2017, let’s see how obvious is the ocean’s governing of global average temperatures.

The best context for understanding these last two years comes from the world’s sea surface temperatures (SST), for several reasons:

  • The ocean covers 71% of the globe and drives average temperatures;
  • SSTs have a constant water content, (unlike air temperatures), so give a better reading of heat content variations;
  • A major El Nino was the dominant climate feature the last two years.

HadSST is generally regarded as the best of the global SST data sets, and so the temperature story here comes from that source, the latest version being HadSST3.

The chart below shows the last two years of SST monthly anomalies as reported in HadSST3, along with the first two months of 2017.

Note that higher temps in 2015 and 2016 are first of all due to a sharp rise in Tropical SST, beginning in March 2015, peaking in February 2016, and steadily declining back to its beginning level. Secondly, the Northern Hemisphere added two bumps on the shoulders of Tropical warming, with peaks in August of each year. Also, note that the global release of heat was not dramatic, due to the Southern Hemisphere offsetting the Northern one.

Finally, the oceans are starting 2017 only slightly lower than a year ago, but this year with much cooler Tropics.  Notice that both the Tropics and also the Northern Hemisphere continue to cool.  The Global average warmed slightly, pulled upward by the Southern Hemisphere which reaches its summer peak at this time.

March may repeat 2016 when NH bottomed and SH peaked, or maybe both will rise or both will drop.  In the latter case, perhaps we will see the long-awaited La Nina.

H/T to Global Warming Policy Forum for adding this informative graphic:

Much ado has been made of this warming, including claims of human causation, despite the obvious oceanic origin. However, it is unreasonable to claim CO2 functions as a global warming agent, yet the two hemispheres respond so differently.  Moreover, CO2 warming theory expects greater warming in the higher latitudes, while this event was driven by heating in the Tropics, contradicting alarmist warming theory.

Solar energy accumulates massively in the ocean and is variably released during circulation events.




  1. Climatism · March 18, 2017

    Reblogged this on Climatism and commented:
    “CO2 warming theory expects greater warming in the higher latitudes, while this event was driven by heating in the Tropics, contradicting alarmist warming theory.”

    Rapid drop in SST’s post El Niño, *despite rising CO2 emissions*.

    (NB, Don’t mention “natural variability”. Or you’ll be swiftly branded as a science/climate “DENIER”! And hopefully, for them, silenced. So, Sssshhhh)

    Read on…


    • Mary Brown · March 23, 2017

      Greater warming of air has been observed at higher latitudes. Esp N Hemis


      • Ron Clutz · March 23, 2017

        You refer to a long-term trend in which Arctic circle stations show warmer air temperatures in the winter and little change in summertime temperatures. The linked article is about the special case of 2015 and 2016 El Nino years.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Climatism · March 27, 2017

        Because “greater warming of air” in the TLT is yet to be found. The TLT being the exact place where AGW is meant to occur.
        So now the goal posts change to the stratosphere.
        Climate “science” is bent way out of shape on this change up alone.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Hifast · March 18, 2017

    Reblogged this on Climate Collections.


  3. spock2009 · March 18, 2017

    So, let’s get a clear explanation as to what is causing the ocean’s to gain the extra heat which they are in turn influences land temperatures.


    • Ron Clutz · March 18, 2017

      spock, it is the sun that heats the ocean. The warming goes up and down according to solar variability, either from the sun itself, or from lower or higher albedo (clouds, aerosols blocking incoming solar radiation. As well, you have ocean oscillations that result in warmer surface waters, such as El Nino produces.

      Liked by 1 person

      • spock2009 · March 18, 2017

        Thank you Ron for your response.
        I fully understand and agree with what you are saying.
        However, my point is/was that mankind is being blamed (exploited) for the “claimed” global warming. If our response to the “alarmists” is that the oceans are becoming warmer and in turn oceans are warming the land, the CAGW proponents will then feel (claim) that their point has been proven.


      • Ron Clutz · March 18, 2017

        The problem for CAGW proponents is the lack of any mechanism for CO2 to heat the oceans. The energy flux goes from sun to ocean to atmosphere to space. The flux has been measured and is described in this post:

        Liked by 2 people

  4. bugsbunny4pres · March 18, 2017


    I’m inclined to think underwater volcanos contribute to ocean warming as well.


    • Ron Clutz · March 18, 2017

      bugs, I looked at this and there is likely some warming, but the research is not definitive as to the magnitude.

      I concluded: This source of heat has been dismissed because it is poorly known, and because its eruptive events are unpredictable and can not therefore be represented in climate models. Despite geothermal eruptions having only localized effects, the impact on ocean circulations is significant.


      • bugsbunny4pres · March 18, 2017

        Fantastic read, thanks for the link. Certainly not a ‘settled’ science.


      • Eric Vosburgh · March 22, 2017

        It is interesting and alarming that because things cannot be predicted that they are left out of models. I can say with absolute certainty, based in my experience building models of rocks-pores-fluids, that even the seemily insignificant things can influence the system over time. I believe the first one to publish this fact was Lorentz based on his weather modeling. The real issue is that of frame of reference. Humans have a much shorter frame of reference than the climate system and therefore we have too short a sample to judge relative change. So, leaving things out of the model because they are troublesome can lead to invalid results!


  5. Climate Otter · March 19, 2017

    In light of the above information and the fact that events like El-Nino are escape valves for heat energy, why do you suppose they are still claiming massive heat building up in oceans?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ron Clutz · March 19, 2017

      Agreed Otter. I think we are seeing the lagged ocean release of the buildup of solar energy in the latter part of last century. If so, that bodes for cooler decades ahead, which is what the Russian scientists are predicting.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: Ocean Surface Temperatures: How Low Will They Go? | The Global Warming Policy Forum (GWPF)

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