Source: The Ocean is the Dog. Atmospheric Temperature is the Tail by Greg Laden from his blog on scienceblogs.com, June 19, 2013.
Extended Quote: by Greg Laden:
"When you focus on just the heat in the atmosphere...to measure or describe global warming, it is like tracking the tip of your dog's tail to determine its location, instead of the body of the dog.
It will work, and over time be a good approximation of global warming/dog location. (However), over shorter time scales, looking only at the atmosphere/tail will show more variation than is useful in answering the important questions.
Those important questions are 'Is global warming continuing?' and 'Where is my dog?'"
Notes: Many climate contrarians mistakenly think that climate change has stalled since 1998.
They somehow think believe this because atmospheric temperatures have not gone up as much as they might be expected to go up if we project a straight line matched to the last 30 or 40 years of data. Like this:
However, only 2.3% of the sun's energy that is converted to heat actually contributes to warming of the atmosphere. Most of this solar energy, 93.4%, actually goes into the ocean, 2.3% into the air, and the rest into other things.
As environmental scientist and climate blogger Dana Nuccitelli wrote in July 2013 on ClimateProgress: "It would be more accurate to say that global surface air warming has slowed, but the overall warming of the Earth's climate has sped up."
Image Source: www.pet365.co.uk