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Global ocean heat transport dominated by heat export from the tropical Pacific

Forget, G. and Ferreira, D. (2019) Global ocean heat transport dominated by heat export from the tropical Pacific. Nature Geoscience, 12. pp. 351-354. ISSN 1752-0894

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1038/s41561-019-0333-7

Abstract/Summary

Heat redistribution is one of the main mechanisms by which oceans regulate Earth’s climate. Analyses of ocean heat transport tend to emphasize global-scale seawater pathways and concepts such as the great ocean conveyor belt. However it is the divergence or convergence of heat transport within an oceanic region, rather than the origin or destination of seawater transiting through that region, which is most immediately relevant to Earth’s heat budget. Here we use a recent gridded estimate of ocean heat transport to reveal the net effect on Earth’s heat budget, the ‘effective’ ocean heat transport, by removing internal ocean heat loops that have obscured the interpretation of measurements. The result demonstrates the overwhelming predominance of the tropical Pacific which exports four times as much heat as is imported in the Atlantic and Arctic. It also highlights the unique ability of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans to transport heat across the Equator – Northward and Southward, respectively. However effective inter-ocean heat transports are smaller than expected, suggesting that global-scale seawater pathways only play a minor role in Earth’s heat budget.

Item Type:Article
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Faculty of Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > Department of Meteorology
ID Code:82528
Publisher:Nature Publishing Group

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