Original Study published in Nature on November 1, 2018:
“Our result—which relies on high-precision O2 measurements dating back to 1991 —suggests that ocean warming is at the high end of previous estimates, with implications for policy-relevant measurements of the Earth response to climate change, such as climate sensitivity to greenhouse gases and the thermal component of sea-level rise.” Quantification of ocean heat uptake from changes in atmospheric O2 and CO2 composition Resplandy, Keeling, et al. (2018).
Statement by co-author Ralph Keeling, November 5, 2018:
“‘The result significantly increases the confidence we can place in estimates of ocean warming and therefore helps reduce uncertainty about climate sensitivity’, Keeling* said.” quoted in Scripps News
Keeling acknowledges errors in original study in Real Climate on November 14, 2018:
“I, with the other co-authors of Resplandy et al (2018), want to address two problems that came to our attention since publication of our paper in Nature last week. These problems do not invalidate the methodology or the new insights into ocean biogeochemistry on which it is based, but they do influence the mean rate of warming we infer, and more importantly, the uncertainties of that calculation.”
Nature issues an editor's note about the errors on November 19, 2018:
"We would like to alert readers that the authors have informed us of errors in the paper. An implication of the errors is that the uncertainties in ocean heat content are substantially underestimated. We are working with the authors to establish the quantitative impact of the errors on the published results, at which point in time we will provide a further update."
Retraction published online in Nature on September 25, 2019:
“…Although correcting these issues did not substantially change the central estimate of ocean warming, it led to a roughly fourfold increase in uncertainties, significantly weakening implications for an upward revision of ocean warming and climate sensitivity…Despite the revised uncertainties, our method remains valid and provides an estimate of ocean warming that is independent of the ocean data underpinning other approaches.” Retraction Note: Quantification of ocean heat uptake from changes in atmospheric O2 and CO2 composition Resplandy, Keeling, et al. (2019).
Headlines Accessed on October 1, 2019
The Oceans Are Heating Up Faster Than Expected Scientific American/November 1, 2018. No update in article re errors or retraction.
Oceans have absorbed far more CO2 than scientists thought (Original Headline, which has been changed to “Earth's oceans may be way hotter than scientists realized — here's how worried you should be” Business Insider/November 1, 2018. No update in article re errors or retraction.
Oceans Have Absorbed 60% More Heat Than Thought, Researchers Say Fortune/October 31, 2018. No update in article re errors or retraction.
Earth's oceans are absorbing more heat than had been thought, study says USA Today/Nov 1, 2018. No update in article re errors or retraction.
'We Have Less Time Than We Thought': Alarming New Study Shows Oceans Have Retained Far More Heat Than Previously Believed Common Dreams/ October 31, 2018 No update re errors or retraction.
Startling new research finds large buildup of heat in the oceans Washington Post/Oct 31, 2018
Undated update in article: “Researchers behind the study discussed below have since acknowledged errors in the work that renders the central conclusion much more uncertain, and have submitted a correction to the journal Nature.”
Earth's Oceans Have Absorbed Far More Heat Than Experts, Study Claims Vice/November 1, 2018
Update in article: On November 14, 2018 this paper’s authors announced key errors …More simply, the team’s findings are too uncertain to conclusively support their statement that Earth’s oceans have absorbed 60 percent more heat than previously thought...’.”
World's oceans are warming far faster than thought (Original Headline, subsequently changed to “New study independently confirms the world's oceans are warming” Axios/November, 2018.
Undated update in article: “This piece has been corrected due to a correction posted by the authors for Nature. …Instead of showing a higher amount of ocean heat increase than other studies, the study amounts to an independent confirmation of what other studies have found. We have updated the headline to reflect this.”
The oceans may meet our grimmest global warming estimates Mashable/November 2, 2018
Update on November 17, 2018: “The study's researchers updated their findings to more accurately reflect the levels of uncertainty about the rate of warming in the oceans. These corrections do not change the conclusion — supported by decades of past research — that the ocean absorbs most of Earth's accumulating heat, and this heat-absorption is accelerating.”
Oceans Are Warming Up Much Faster Than Previously Thought Yale.edu/ November 1, 2018
Update on November 14, 2018: “The authors of this study have acknowledged that their research contained inadvertent errors that make their conclusion about the amount of heat the ocean has soaked up less certain. They say corrections to the research will have a small impact on their calculations of overall heat uptake and provide larger margins of error.”
A few comments:
The ocean warming study’s errors were acknowledged by the authors within two weeks of publication. Yet almost a year later several reputable news outlets had still not updated their articles. Worse yet, when updates were provided, some minimized the study’s errors, misrepresented the authors’ statements, or simply changed the subject , e.g. the Mashable and Yale.edu updates. This kind of journalism isn’t going to win over any skeptics to the cause of combating catastrophic climate change. It will only reinforce their doubts.
Resplandy, L., R. F. Keeling, et al. (2018). Quantification of ocean heat uptake from changes in atmospheric O2 and CO2 composition Nature 563(7729): 105-108.
Resplandy, L., R. F. Keeling, et al. (2019). Retraction Note: Quantification of ocean heat uptake from changes in atmospheric O2 and CO2 composition Nature 573(7775): 614-614.