Using magnetism to take the sea’s temperature

“NOBODY really knows” was Donald Trump’s assessment of man-made global warming, in an interview on December 11th. As far as the atmosphere is concerned, that puts him at odds with most scientists who have studied the matter. They do know that the atmosphere is warming, and they also know by how much. But turn to the sea and Mr Trump has a point. Though the oceans are warming too, climatologists readily admit that they have only a rough idea how much heat is going into them, and how much is already there.

Many suspect that the heat capacity of seawater explains the climate pause of recent years, in which the rate of atmospheric warming has slowed. But without decent data, it is hard to be sure to what extent the oceans are acting as a heat sink that damps the temperature rise humanity is visiting upon the planet—and, equally important, how long they can keep that up.

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