Letter | Published:

Unabated planetary warming and its ocean structure since 2006

Nature Climate Change volume 5, pages 240245 (2015) | Download Citation

This article has been updated

Abstract

Increasing heat content of the global ocean dominates the energy imbalance in the climate system1. Here we show that ocean heat gain over the 0–2,000 m layer continued at a rate of 0.4–0.6 W m−2 during 2006–2013. The depth dependence and spatial structure of temperature changes are described on the basis of the Argo Program's2 accurate and spatially homogeneous data set, through comparison of three Argo-only analyses. Heat gain was divided equally between upper ocean, 0–500 m and 500–2,000 m components. Surface temperature and upper 100 m heat content tracked interannual El Niño/Southern Oscillation fluctuations3, but were offset by opposing variability from 100–500 m. The net 0–500 m global average temperature warmed by 0.005 °C yr−1. Between 500 and 2,000 m steadier warming averaged 0.002 °C yr−1 with a broad intermediate-depth maximum between 700 and 1,400 m. Most of the heat gain (67 to 98%) occurred in the Southern Hemisphere extratropical ocean. Although this hemispheric asymmetry is consistent with inhomogeneity of radiative forcing4 and the greater area of the Southern Hemisphere ocean, ocean dynamics also influence regional patterns of heat gain.

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Change history

  • 05 February 2015

    In the version of this Letter originally published, in the paragraph beginning 'The large interannual variability…' the third sentence should have read: 'The opposing anomalies in the 0–100 and 100–500 m layers are related to El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) variability in the depth and slope of the equatorial Pacific thermocline3'. This error has been corrected in all versions of the Letter.

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Acknowledgements

The Argo data used here were collected and are made freely available by the International Argo Program and by the national programmes thatcontribute to it. D.R. and J.G., and their part in the Argo Program, were supported by US. Argo through NOAA Grant NA10OAR4310139 (CIMEC/ SIO Argo). J.C., D.M. and S.W. were partly financially supported by the Australian Climate Change Science Program. NOAA_OI_SST_V2 data were provided by the NOAA/OAR/ESRL PSD, Boulder, Colorado, USA. The satellite altimeter SSH products were provided by AVISO with support from the Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES).

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, California 92075, USA

    • Dean Roemmich
    •  & John Gilson
  2. Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research, CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere Flagship, Hobart, Tasmania 7000, Australia

    • John Church
    • , Didier Monselesan
    •  & Susan Wijffels
  3. National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, Wellington 6021, New Zealand

    • Philip Sutton

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Contributions

All co-author (listed alphabetically) contributions were equal, consisting of the three interpolated forms of the Argo data set plus many thoughts, suggestions and revisions improving the manuscript. The first author assembled the interpolated data sets, created the figures and drafted the manuscript.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Dean Roemmich.

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate2513

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