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.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution
Open Access articles citing this article.
Nature Communications Open Access 07 September 2022
Nature Communications Open Access 13 July 2022
Nature Climate Change Open Access 27 June 2022
Subscribe to Journal
Get full journal access for 1 year
only $8.25 per issue
All prices are NET prices.
VAT will be added later in the checkout.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.
All prices are NET prices.
Rhein, M. et al. in Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis (eds Stocker, T. F. et al.) 264–265 (IPCC, Cambridge Univ. Press, 2013).
Gould, J. et al. Argo profiling floats bring new era of in situ ocean observations. Eos Trans. AGU 85, 185–191 (2004).
Roemmich, D. & Gilson, J. The global ocean imprint of ENSO. Geophys. Res. Lett. 38, L13606 (2011).
Shindell, D. T. Inhomogeneous forcing and transient climate sensitivity. Nature Clim. Change 4, 274–277 (2014).
Abraham, J. P. et al. A review of global ocean temperature observations: Implications for ocean heat content estimates and climate change. Rev. Geophys. 51, 450–483 (2013).
Wijffels, S. E. et al. Changing expendable bathythermograph fall rates and their impact on estimates of thermosteric sea level rise. J. Clim. 21, 5657–5672 (2008).
Davis, R. E., Sherman, J. T. & Dufour, J. Profiling ALACEs and other advances in autonomous subsurface floats. J. Atmos. Ocean. Technol. 18, 982–993 (2001).
Stephens, G. L. et al. An update on Earth’s energy balance in light of the latest global observations. Nature Geosci. 5, 691–696 (2012).
Loeb, N. G. et al. Observed changes in top-of-the-atmosphere radiation and upper-ocean heating consistent within uncertainty. Nature Geosci. 5, 110–113 (2012).
Roemmich, D., Gould, W. J. & Gilson, J. 135 years of global ocean warming between the Challenger Expedition and the Argo Program. Nature Clim. Change 2, 425–428 (2012).
Levitus, S. et al. World ocean heat content and thermosteric sea level change (0–2,000 m) 1955–2010. Geophys. Res. Lett. 39, L10603 (2012).
Domingues, C. M. et al. Improved estimates of upper-ocean warming and multi-decadal sea-level rise. Nature 453, 1090–1093 (2008).
Ishii, M. & Kimoto, M. Reevaluation of historical ocean heat content variations with time-varying XBT and MBT depth bias corrections. J. Oceanogr. 65, 287–299 (2009).
Palmer, M. D., Haines, K., Tett, S. F. B. & Ansell, T. J. Isolating the signal of ocean global warming. Geophys. Res. Lett. 34, L23610 (2007).
Lyman, J. M. et al. Robust warming of the global upper ocean. Nature 465, 334–337 (2010).
Llovel, W., Willis, J. K., Landerer, F. W. & Fukumori, I. Deep-ocean contribution to sea level and energy budget not detectable over the past decade. Nature Clim. Change 4, 1031–1035 (2014).
Allan, R. P. et al. Changes in global net radiative imbalance 1985–2012. Geophys. Res. Lett. 41, 5588–5597 (2014).
Cheng, L. & Zhu, J. Artifacts in variations of ocean heat content induced by the observation system changes. Geophys. Res. Lett. 41, 7276–7283 (2014).
Durack, P. J., Gleckler, P. J., Landerer, F. W. & Taylor, K. E. Quantifying underestimates of long-term upper-ocean warming. Nature Clim. Change 4, 999–1005 (2014).
Flato, G. et al. in Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis (eds Stocker, T. F. et al.) 769–772 (IPCC, Cambridge Univ. Press, 2013).
Kosaka, Y. & Xie, S. P. Recent global-warming hiatus tied to equatorial Pacific surface cooling. Nature 501, 403–407 (2013).
England, M. et al. Recent intensification of wind-driven circulation in the Pacific and the ongoing warming hiatus. Nature Clim. Change 4, 222–227 (2014).
Trenberth, K. E., Fasullo, J. T., Branstator, G. & Phillips, A. S. Seasonal aspects of the recent pause in surface warming. Nature Clim. Change 4, 911–916 (2014).
Roemmich, D. & Gilson, J. The 2004–2008 mean and annual cycle of temperature, salinity, and steric height in the global ocean from the Argo Program. Prog. Oceanogr. 82, 81–100 (2009).
Durack, P. J. & Wijffels, S. E. Fifty year trends in global ocean salinities and their relationship to broad-scale ocean warming. J. Clim. 23, 4342–4362 (2010).
Kaplan, A., Kushnir, Y. & Cane, M. A. Reduced space optimal interpolation of historical marine sea level pressure: 1854–1992. J. Clim. 13, 2987–3002 (2000).
Reynolds, R., Rayner, N. A., Smith, T. M., Stokes, D. C. & Wang, W. An improved in situ and satellite SST analysis for climate. J. Clim. 15, 1609–1625 (2002).
Palmer, M. D. & McNeall, D. J. Internal variability of Earth’s energy budget simulated by CMIP5 climate models. Environ. Res. Lett. 9, 034016 (2014).
Chen, X. & Tung, K-K. Varying planetary heat sink led to global-warming slowdown and acceleration. Science 345, 897–903 (2014).
Roemmich, D. et al. Decadal spinup of the South Pacific subtropical gyre. J. Phys. Oceanogr. 37, 162–173 (2007).
Sutton, P. & Roemmich, D. Decadal steric and sea surface height changes in the Southern Hemisphere. Geophys. Res. Lett. 38, L08604 (2011).
Sloyan, B. & Rintoul, S. Circulation, renewal, and modification of Antarctic Mode and Intermediate Water. J. Phys. Oceanogr. 31, 1005–1030 (2001).
Purkey, S. G. & Johnson, G. C. Warming of global abyssal and deep Southern Ocean waters between the 1990s and 2000s: Contributions to global heat and sea level rise budgets. J. Clim. 23, 6336–6351 (2010).
Trenberth, K. & Fasullo, J. Tracking Earth’s energy. Science 328, 316–317 (2010).
Myhre, G. et al. in Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis (eds Stocker, T. F. et al.) Ch. 8 (IPCC, Cambridge Univ. Press, 2013).
Church, J. et al. in Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis (eds Stocker, T. F. et al.) Ch. 13 (IPCC, Cambridge Univ. Press, 2013).
Trenberth, K. E., Fasullo, J. T. & Balmaseda, M. A. Earth’s energy imbalance. J. Clim. 27, 3129–3144 (2014).
Ducet, N., Le Traon, P. Y. & Reverdin, G. Global high-resolution mapping of ocean circulation from TOPEX/Poseidon and ERS-1 and -2. J. Geophys. Res. 105, 19477–19498 (2000).
Barker, P. M., Dunn, J. R., Domingues, C. M. & Wijffels, S. Pressure sensor drifts in Argo and their impacts. J. Atmos. Ocean. Technol. 28, 1036–1049 (2011).
Church, J. A., White, N. J., Coleman, R., Lambeck, K. & Mitrovica, J. X. Estimates of the regional distribution of sea level rise over the 1950–2000 period. J. Clim. 17, 2609–2625 (2004).
Ridgway, K. R., Dunn, J. R. & Wilkin, J. L. Ocean interpolation by four-dimensional weighted least squares—Application to the waters around Australasia. J. Atmos. Ocean. Technol. 19, 1357–1375 (2002).
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).
The authors declare no competing financial interests.
About this article
Cite this article
Roemmich, D., Church, J., Gilson, J. et al. Unabated planetary warming and its ocean structure since 2006. Nature Clim Change 5, 240–245 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate2513
This article is cited by
Communications Earth & Environment (2022)
Nature Communications (2022)
Nature Climate Change (2022)
Nature Reviews Earth & Environment (2022)
Nature Communications (2022)