Climate scientists have been arguing for some time that the lack of warming of the sea surface is due to most of the extra heat being taken up by the deep ocean. A better measure, he said, was to look at the average rise in sea levels. The oceans store the vast majority of the climate's heat energy. Increases in this stored energy translate into sea level rises.
"The sea level shows us the engine of global climate not one of the consequences," said Briggs.
In the past 50 years, sea levels indicated that the stored energy had increased by 250 zetajoules, he said. A zetajoule is 1021 joules. For comparison, mankind generates 0.5 zetajoules of energy every year in its power stations.
Since 1993, satellites have measured sea levels rising by an average of 3mm per year. Unlike the surface temperature, this rise continued throughout the supposed pause in global warming.