Climate Watch: Is Ocean Warming an Imminent Threat?

Global warming has become the new climate catch phrase that without understanding can be dismissed as another doomsday scare tactic and yet the dangers associated with changes in the earth core temperature are very real.

The Washington Post reports that "a rapid surge in global ocean temperatures in recent months is raising the specter of a climate pattern shift that could accelerate planetary warming and supercharge trends that already are fueling extreme storms, deadly heat waves, and ecological crises on land and sea."

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There was a "spike" in global average surface ocean temperatures since early March—of about 0.2 °C. We "just know" that as atmospheric greenhouse gases increase, "the planet will continue to set new climate and weather precedents, and oceans will grow ever hotter," said Michael McPhaden, a senior scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The figure shows perspective over geologic time.

When the earth was ice-free, the deep ocean temperature was up to 16 °C warmer than now. We have been in a global cooling trend since the Eocene Thermal Maximum 50 million years ago, when the ancestors of all existing species lived, states Patrick Moore.

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What caused these tremendous changes? Not prehistoric combustion of "fossil fuels"! Transfer of heat by ocean currents was colossally changed by tectonic shifts that rearranged continents and blocked currents, as explained by geoscientist Tom Gallagher. There have been two states of climate on earth: the default condition: dry, dusty, cold, and glacial, and the current condition: wet, warm, non-glacial times when vegetation and civilization thrive.

There have been recent variations in ocean temperature, though it is difficult to distinguish cyclical from secular trends when there is very little reliable direct measurement data until quite recently. There was major heating of the oceans early in the 20th century. Then they cooled, and now we're barely back to 1950s levels.

Could this warming have been caused by slight differences (< 1 °C) in atmospheric temperature? That is absurd. Water has a very high heat capacity. The heat content of the oceans increased by 400 zetajoules (zeta means 1021) over 50 years. Over that period, human consumption of energy was 22 ZJ. The estimated energy of the world's total fossil-fuel reserves as of 2010 was only 40 ZJ, as pointed out by Willie Soon (see video from Doctors for Disaster Preparedness 41st annual meeting at about 7:49 minutes).

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Compared with natural forces, human production of CO2 and its possible effect on climate is negligible. Regulating meat eating, methane production by cows, nitrogen release from farming, transportation fuels, and electricity production will devastate human populations and living standards—with zero impact on ocean temperature.

We are not "boiling the oceans," despite Al Gore's claim at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January 2023.

Additional information:

"The Week That Was," Science and Environmental Policy Project,

Jane M. Orient, M.D. obtained her undergraduate degrees in chemistry and mathematics from the University of Arizona in Tucson, and her M.D. from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1974. She completed an internal medicine residency at Parkland Memorial Hospital and University of Arizona Affiliated Hospitals and then became an Instructor at the University of Arizona College of Medicine and a staff physician at the Tucson Veterans Administration Hospital. She has been in solo private practice since 1981 and has served as Executive Director of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) since 1989.

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She is currently president of Doctors for Disaster Preparedness. She is the author of YOUR Doctor Is Not In: Healthy Skepticism about National Healthcare, and the second through fifth editions of Sapira's Art and Science of Bedside Diagnosis published by Wolters Kluwer. She authored books for school children, Professor Klugimkopf's Old-Fashioned English Grammar and Professor Klugimkopf's Spelling Method, published by Robinson Books, and coauthored two novels published as Kindle books, Neomorts and Moonshine. 

More than 100 of her papers have been published in the scientific and popular literature on a variety of subjects including risk assessment, natural and technological hazards and non-hazards, and medical economics and ethics. She is the editor of AAPS News, the Doctors for Disaster Preparedness Newsletter, and Civil Defense Perspectives, and is the managing editor of the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons.

If you would like to discuss these issues, contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Jane M. Orient, M.D., Executive Director, Association of American Physicians and Surgeons.

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