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Anthropogenic warming of the oceans: Observations and model results

Pierce, D. W., Barnett, T. P., AchutaRao, K. M., Gleckler, P. J., Gregory, J. M. and Washington, W. M. (2006) Anthropogenic warming of the oceans: Observations and model results. Journal Of Climate, 19 (10). pp. 1873-1900. ISSN 1520-0442

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Observations show the oceans have warmed over the past 40 yr. with appreciable regional variation and more warming at the surface than at depth. Comparing the observations with results from two coupled ocean-atmosphere climate models [the Parallel Climate Model version 1 (PCM) and the Hadley Centre Coupled Climate Model version 3 (HadCM3)] that include anthropogenic forcing shows remarkable agreement between the observed and model-estimated warming. In this comparison the models were sampled at the same locations as gridded yearly observed data. In the top 100 m of the water column the warming is well separated from natural variability, including both variability arising from internal instabilities of the coupled ocean-atmosphere climate system and that arising from volcanism and solar fluctuations. Between 125 and 200 m the agreement is not significant, but then increases again below this level, and remains significant down to 600 m. Analysis of PCM's heat budget indicates that the warming is driven by an increase in net surface heat flux that reaches 0.7 W m(-2) by the 1990s; the downward longwave flux increases bv 3.7 W m(-2). which is not fully compensated by an increase in the upward longwave flux of 2.2 W m(-2). Latent and net solar heat fluxes each decrease by about 0.6 W m(-2). The changes in the individual longwave components are distinguishable from the preindustrial mean by the 1920s, but due to cancellation of components. changes in the net surface heat flux do not become well separated from zero until the 1960s. Changes in advection can also play an important role in local ocean warming due to anthropogenic forcing, depending, on the location. The observed sampling of ocean temperature is highly variable in space and time. but sufficient to detect the anthropogenic warming signal in all basins, at least in the surface layers, bv the 1980s.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > Department of Meteorology
ID Code:5192
Publisher:American Meteorological Society

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