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In the released CRU emails NCAR climate scientist Kevin Trenberth says:

The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t.

Last week Science magazine gave Trenberth a chance to explain what he meant by this comment, which has been much discussed in the aftermath of the released emails. In that article, Trenberth, and Kevin Fasullo, write:

Over the past 50 years, the oceans have absorbed ~90% of the energy added to the climate system; the rest has gone into melting sea and land ice and heating the land surface and atmosphere. CO2 concentrations have further increased since 2003, and even more heat should have accumulated at a faster rate since then. Where has this energy gone?

Since 2004, ~3000 Argo floats have provided regular temperature soundings of the upper 2000 m of the ocean, giving new confidence in the ocean heat content assessment—yet, ocean temperature measurements from 2004 to 2008 suggest a substantial slowing of the increase in global ocean heat content. If the extra energy has not gone into the ocean, where has it gone?

Where indeed?

The open admission that scientists don’t understand the location of the missing heat is a vindication for my father, who has been discussing this issue since 2006, and taking a lot of grief for it. For instance, in 2006 my father noted that model predictions and observations of the accumulation of heat in the oceans were diverging:

The mismatch between the data and the model predictions, however, raises serious questions on the ability of the multi-decadal global climate models to accurately predict even the global average variability and long term trend of the radiative imbalance of the climate system.

In 2008, the ever-astute Richard Harris of NPR was one of the very few picked up on this issue:

Full article here.