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Quantifying underestimates of long-term upper-ocean warming
Durack, P.J.; Gleckler, P.J.; Landerer, F.W.; Taylor, K.E. (2014). Quantifying underestimates of long-term upper-ocean warming. Nat. Clim. Chang. 4(11): 999–1005. hdl.handle.net/10.1038/nclimate2389
In: Nature Climate Change. Nature Publishing Group: London. ISSN 1758-678X, more
Peer reviewed article  

Available in Authors 

Keyword
    Marine

Authors  Top 
  • Durack, P.J.
  • Gleckler, P.J.
  • Landerer, F.W.
  • Taylor, K.E.

Abstract
    The global ocean stores more than 90% of the heat associated with observed greenhouse-gas-attributed global warming. Using satellite altimetry observations and a large suite of climate models, we conclude that observed estimates of 0–700 dbar global ocean warming since 1970 are likely biased low. This underestimation is attributed to poor sampling of the Southern Hemisphere, and limitations of the analysis methods that conservatively estimate temperature changes in data-sparse regions. We find that the partitioning of northern and southern hemispheric simulated sea surface height changes are consistent with precise altimeter observations, whereas the hemispheric partitioning of simulated upper-ocean warming is inconsistent with observed in-situ-based ocean heat content estimates. Relying on the close correspondence between hemispheric-scale ocean heat content and steric changes, we adjust the poorly constrained Southern Hemisphere observed warming estimates so that hemispheric ratios are consistent with the broad range of modelled results. These adjustments yield large increases (2.2–7.1 × 1022 J 35 yr-1) to current global upper-ocean heat content change estimates, and have important implications for sea level, the planetary energy budget and climate sensitivity assessments.

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