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What Warms The Oceans?


Chris Knight

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Posted
  • Location: Worthing West Sussex
  • Location: Worthing West Sussex

    There was a bit of controversy about this going on in another thread, might be worthwhile to get it sorted out.

    What possible mechanisms could warm the ocean?

    The air, being warmer than the oceans, but having a lower specific heat than water, and the fact that the surface skin of water warmed by air would tend to evaporate - cooling the water - led to the rather daft exchange of views on heating a quantity of water with a hair dryer.

    For heaven's sake will someone do the experiment and put it on youtube for us all to see? It would be an ideal classroom experiment so that the local education authority could pay for the electricity.

    You will require three very well insulated water buckets which could comfortably hold a litre of water - say 50mm thick polystyrene, a measuring cylinder to measure the volume of water before and after the experiment, six thermometers, two for each bucket, one for the water, the other for the air, a hair dryer, a suitably high wattage incandescent tungsten filament spotlight and two suitable clamps and stands to hold them securely and safely over the buckets, several litres of seawater and a timer. A suitable power supply fitted with a Residual Current Device circuit breaker would also be needed.

    With one litre of seawater in each bucket at an initial temperature of say 15 deg C, one bucket remaining at room temperature, one bucket with a spotlight placed above it, and one with the hair dryer directed at the water surface, the initial, half hourly and final temperatures, say after two hours, or more, could be plotted for the air and water temperatures for each bucket. At the end of the experiment, the remaining water in each bucket could be measured to determine the rate of evaporation for each case, and the total heat transfer in each case could be calculated.

    Of course someone may have already done this, and can show us the results.

    Frankly I do not know what the outcome would be, but I would guess that the water heated by radiation would be warmer than that heated by the hairdryer and that would be a little warmer than the room temperature water bucket, but I may be wrong.

    Finally, what are the possible sources of heat apart from air and sun on deep oceans?

    Of course, not all the ocean is deep, and in shallow waters, the ocean bottom could heat up due to sunlight, and there are landmass heat islands.

    Volcanism and geothermal energy are also sources.

    Rivers flowing off warm land surfaces heat oceans around estuaries and river deltas, and being fresher than seawater, would tend to heat the surface water rather than deeper waters.

    Rivers flowing off cold land surfaces near the polar regions might displace warmer deeper waters by the act of mixing.

    Normal tidal action and waves and surges would cause the ocean to contact warm land surfaces where land meets sea.

    The biosphere releases heat via metabolic processes.

    Rain, warmed by passing through the air, almost certainly would heat the oceans, especially, but not only, in the tropics. (this is my favourite)

    There is the latent heat released by freezing ice and condensing water.

    Then there are more subtle, but undeniable sources of heat - friction from the wind and wave action, and lunar and solar tidal friction, erosive friction, earthquakes and landfalls, human sources of heat (including friction) from engines, machinery and craft in and on the water, lightning strikes, geomagnetic resistive electrical currents, heat from meteoric debris falling into the ocean.

    Any more?

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    Posted
  • Location: Barnstaple N Devon
  • Location: Barnstaple N Devon

    ive only got one ...

    swimmers peeing in the sea :lol: OH god please dont shout at me just trying to bring a bit of humour ill shut up now..

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    Posted
  • Location: Blackburn, Lancs
  • Location: Blackburn, Lancs
    There was a bit of controversy about this going on in another thread, might be worthwhile to get it sorted out.

    What possible mechanisms could warm the ocean?

    The air, being warmer than the oceans, but having a lower specific heat than water, and the fact that the surface skin of water warmed by air would tend to evaporate - cooling the water - led to the rather daft exchange of views on heating a quantity of water with a hair dryer.

    For heaven's sake will someone do the experiment and put it on youtube for us all to see? It would be an ideal classroom experiment so that the local education authority could pay for the electricity.

    You will require three very well insulated water buckets which could comfortably hold a litre of water - say 50mm thick polystyrene, a measuring cylinder to measure the volume of water before and after the experiment, six thermometers, two for each bucket, one for the water, the other for the air, a hair dryer, a suitably high wattage incandescent tungsten filament spotlight and two suitable clamps and stands to hold them securely and safely over the buckets, several litres of seawater and a timer. A suitable power supply fitted with a Residual Current Device circuit breaker would also be needed.

    With one litre of seawater in each bucket at an initial temperature of say 15 deg C, one bucket remaining at room temperature, one bucket with a spotlight placed above it, and one with the hair dryer directed at the water surface, the initial, half hourly and final temperatures, say after two hours, or more, could be plotted for the air and water temperatures for each bucket. At the end of the experiment, the remaining water in each bucket could be measured to determine the rate of evaporation for each case, and the total heat transfer in each case could be calculated.

    Of course someone may have already done this, and can show us the results.

    Frankly I do not know what the outcome would be, but I would guess that the water heated by radiation would be warmer than that heated by the hairdryer and that would be a little warmer than the room temperature water bucket, but I may be wrong.

    Finally, what are the possible sources of heat apart from air and sun on deep oceans?

    Of course, not all the ocean is deep, and in shallow waters, the ocean bottom could heat up due to sunlight, and there are landmass heat islands.

    Volcanism and geothermal energy are also sources.

    Rivers flowing off warm land surfaces heat oceans around estuaries and river deltas, and being fresher than seawater, would tend to heat the surface water rather than deeper waters.

    Rivers flowing off cold land surfaces near the polar regions might displace warmer deeper waters by the act of mixing.

    Normal tidal action and waves and surges would cause the ocean to contact warm land surfaces where land meets sea.

    The biosphere releases heat via metabolic processes.

    Rain, warmed by passing through the air, almost certainly would heat the oceans, especially, but not only, in the tropics. (this is my favourite)

    There is the latent heat released by freezing ice and condensing water.

    Then there are more subtle, but undeniable sources of heat - friction from the wind and wave action, and lunar and solar tidal friction, erosive friction, earthquakes and landfalls, human sources of heat (including friction) from engines, machinery and craft in and on the water, lightning strikes, geomagnetic resistive electrical currents, heat from meteoric debris falling into the ocean.

    Any more?

    Yes so many sources of heat, I think the above experiment is an excellent idea Chris. To sate that the ambient air is the reason behind rising ocean temperatures is absurd. There is just far to much we don't understand about the heating mechanism of the ocean. Volcanic activity could well be a major player, no one can dismiss this theory out of hand. But a certain few on here, will no doubt!!

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    Posted
  • Location: Coalpit Heath, South Gloucestershire
  • Location: Coalpit Heath, South Gloucestershire

    The sun. It is the sun which gives both warmth and light to our planet, thus enabling life to exist on Earth.

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    Posted
  • Location: Near Newton Abbot or east Dartmoor, Devon
  • Location: Near Newton Abbot or east Dartmoor, Devon
    Yes so many sources of heat, I think the above experiment is an excellent idea Chris. To sate that the ambient air is the reason behind rising ocean temperatures is absurd. There is just far to much we don't understand about the heating mechanism of the ocean. Volcanic activity could well be a major player, no one can dismiss this theory out of hand. But a certain few on here, will no doubt!!

    Fine, that's your theory so please provide proof. If you can't I invoke the SC rule that a unproven theory is by definition wrong.

    The sun. It is the sun which gives both warmth and light to our planet, thus enabling life to exist on Earth.

    Erm, it's surely the sun plus the greenhouse effect? Or how could the oceans be the same temperature if the GH didn't exist an the average atmospheric temperature not the 14C it is with a GH effect but the -18C or it would be without a GH effect?

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    Posted
  • Location: Lincoln, Lincolnshire
  • Weather Preferences: Sunshine, convective precipitation, snow, thunderstorms, "episodic" months.
  • Location: Lincoln, Lincolnshire

    For those who insist that the ambient air cannot significantly influence sea temperature, I wonder how we explain the much larger cooling of the SSTs around Britain during November/December 1995, as opposed to November/December 2006. The sun is very weak at that time of year, and November & December 2006 were not vastly sunnier than November & December 1995. On the other hand December 1995 was 3-4C colder than December 2006.

    In addition SSTs have been rising around the Northern Hemisphere despite no notable reductions in cloudiness.

    Solar heating certainly does play a part in modifying the temperatures of the oceans but compelling evidence that it is a vastly larger factor than ambient air temperature is hard to come by.

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    Posted
  • Location: Worthing West Sussex
  • Location: Worthing West Sussex
    For those who insist that the ambient air cannot significantly influence sea temperature, I wonder how we explain the much larger cooling of the SSTs around Britain during November/December 1995, as opposed to November/December 2006. The sun is very weak at that time of year, and November & December 2006 were not vastly sunnier than November & December 1995. On the other hand December 1995 was 3-4C colder than December 2006.

    In addition SSTs have been rising around the Northern Hemisphere despite no notable reductions in cloudiness.

    Solar heating certainly does play a part in modifying the temperatures of the oceans but compelling evidence that it is a vastly larger factor than ambient air temperature is hard to come by.

    Not sure where your SST information comes from TWS:

    The SSTs for 1995 for the Atlantic west of the UK look to have been decidedly near normal, especially for December:

    October.95.anomaly.gif

    November.95.anomaly.gif

    December.95.anomaly.gif

    Whereas in 2006, a positive SST anomaly was quite rapidly replaced with a neutral to negative one by the end of December.

    anomnight.10.28.2006.gif

    anomnight.11.27.2006.gif

    anomnight.12.30.2006.gif

    (Unless NOAA used different baselines for calculating the anomalies for those years, I don't know.)

    Of course, the last three months of 2006 were rather wetter than those of 1995:

    The comparative SWEP (Monthly Southwest England & Wales precipitation (mm)) figures from HadUKP (Oct-Dec in red):

    1995 197.6 142.6 78.1 34.2 54.0 13.3 35.3 8.7 116.0 79.1 100.4 101.5 960.8

    2006 36.8 65.0 99.9 38.0 113.3 24.7 51.7 85.9 83.2 125.3 150.0 138.6 1012.4

    As you can see 413.9 mm fell from Oct-Dec in 2006, compared with 281.0 mm in 1995 on south west England.

    From HadCET, you can see only December was radically colder in 1995:

    1995 4.8 6.5 5.6 9.1 11.6 14.3 18.6 19.2 13.7 12.9 7.7 2.3 10.52

    2006 4.3 3.7 4.9 8.6 12.3 15.9 19.7 16.1 16.8 13.0 8.1 6.5 10.82

    So the wetter 2006 may equate to more cloud cover, meaning less solar irradiance reaching land and sea, warmer nighttimes under cloud (and more clear nighttimes in December 1995, leading to frosts), more moderation from the temperature of precipitation falling on the seas near the UK, more river runoff from UK and Irish rivers, or just different synoptics and wind directions.

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    Posted
  • Location: Putney, SW London. A miserable 14m asl....but nevertheless the lucky recipient of c 20cm of snow in 12 hours 1-2 Feb 2009!
  • Location: Putney, SW London. A miserable 14m asl....but nevertheless the lucky recipient of c 20cm of snow in 12 hours 1-2 Feb 2009!
    Yes so many sources of heat, I think the above experiment is an excellent idea Chris. To s(t)ate that the ambient air is the reason behind rising ocean temperatures is absurd......

    I don't remember anyone on here saying that. My reply to you in the other thread was based on your stating unequivocally that "warm air does not warm oceans. The sun yes!" Of course the sun warms the sea directly - it would take a complete idiot to deny that - though you do not seem to understand how shallowly the sun penetrates, and therefore how much of that warmth finds its way deeper through various mixing mechanisms. Many other things also warm it, directly and indirectly, as suggested by Chris. And yes, Noggin, of course the sun - directly and indirectly - is the ultimate source of the vast majority of the warmth that enables us to live on this planet (nobody really knows about how much comes from the residual warmth and/or nuclear reactions, friction, etc within): the warmth of the air naturally comes ultimately from the sun. Who is suggesting anything else?

    All I took issue with, SC, was your blanket assertion that the ambient temperature above the oceans cannnot raise the temperature of even the surface layer. Simple physics (not to mention hairdryers and water butts) makes it clear that - even if the contribution is far less than that of direct insolation, which it may well be, I do not know - it must have some effect, surely? SSTs around the UK seem to drop when the weather is colder - wind (and precipitation) certainly cool them as well, but are you really maintaining that a warm south-westerly cools them as fast as a cold northerly of equal strength? Why does the fairly enclosed Baltic cool more when it's bitterly cold? Why does Hudson Bay freeze faster some years than others - just because there's more cloud cover?

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    Posted
  • Location: Rossland BC Canada
  • Location: Rossland BC Canada

    The waters around Britain will be more influenced by ocean currents than a body of water like Hudson Bay which is largely cut off from the global circulation (not totally). The Baltic would be a similar case to Hudson Bay, the North Sea an intermediate case (partly integrated, partly cut off). So their rates of response to overhead temperature anomalies would be different.

    Consider for example the water temperatures at sites like the ocean buoys southwest and west of Ireland. These rarely stray out of a narrow range of seasonal temperatures, 10-12 C in winter, 15-17 C in summer. If for some reason the North Atlantic became a stagnant millpond for twenty years, these temperatures would begin to reflect the overhead air temperatures more directly. I would imagine the winter temperatures would drop faster than the summer temperatures would rise, because the westerly flow in the atmosphere would keep the summer air temperatures closer to the original values, whereas the colder air masses of winter in any set-up would cool the oceans in winter, and then sooner or later you would run into a case of massive cold advection over the water that would cool them further.

    However, in nature the Atlantic Ocean is not going to turn into a giant millpond so it generally maintains a circulation that brings in warmer water in the winter, and circulates the water in summer at a temperature not likely to place much stress on the atmosphere above to keep pace.

    The Great Lakes are totally cut off from circulation of course, except for the weak flow between Lakes Michigan and Huron which are actually one large lake. This means that water temperatures in the Great Lakes will almost completely mirror the air temperatures arriving over them in the past thirty to sixty days, with predictable lags and distributions that are dependent on the depth of the lakes. Lake Erie is much shallower than the other four, hence it freezes first despite being surrounded by the mildest winter temperatures (in a very mild winter it would not freeze, this being a 1 in 10 sort of thing). Lake Huron's north and east margins freeze fairly rapidly because they are shallower and more cut off from lake currents too. Georgian Bay, Lake Huron's eastern third, often freezes by February, whereas much of southern Lake Huron seldom freezes except near shore. Saginaw Bay on the west side freezes quite often. Lake Michigan seldom freezes in the modern climate, but can in a very cold winter. Lake Superior is deeper than these and so it tends to freeze about on their schedule because it's surrounded by colder air masses. Normally, the western half of Lake Superior freezes and the more open eastern half retains open water at least in leads, sometimes completely in a mild winter. Lake Ontario has only frozen once in the past century, in 1934 during an exceptionally cold February. Otherwise, the only parts of Lake Ontario that ever see ice are bays along the north shore and the northeast ten per cent of the lake.

    It is interesting to follow the warming of the Great Lakes in spring because of the faster response than the oceans. In late March to mid-May, the Great Lakes are relatively colder than the Gulf of Maine, so the lake breezes and shoreline fog regimes are stronger in those months than in coastal Maine. Beyond late May, the Great Lakes have warmed (except Superior) to temperatures that will only sustain weak lake breezes and little fog, while the Gulf of Maine keeps a coastal fog regime locked in until almost the end of August during warm weather. Lake Superior also does this, and is usually too cold for swimming all through the year. The large lakes in Manitoba, by contrast, are shallow and even though they are further north they warm up much faster than Lake Superior. Even Great Slave Lake at 62 N is no colder than Lake Superior in August. But then, it is renewed much faster by river inflow and outflow. Great Bear Lake is more like Lake Superior, it is deeper, stays frozen longer once it does freeze, and is not renewed very quickly because only a small river drains out of it. It would not take much of a downward shift in the climate regime to keep Great Bear Lake frozen all year round, as it now thaws in late July.

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