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Human-induced changes to the global ocean water masses and their time of emergence

Silvy, Y., Guilyardi, E., Sallée, J.-B. and Durack, P. J. (2020) Human-induced changes to the global ocean water masses and their time of emergence. Nature Climate Change, 10. pp. 1030-1036. ISSN 1758-678X

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1038/s41558-020-0878-x


The World Ocean is rapidly changing, with global and regional modification of temperature and salinity, resulting in widespread and irreversible impacts. While the most pronounced observed temperature and salinity changes are located in the upper ocean, changes in water masses at depth have been identified and will probably strengthen in the future. Here, using 11 climate models, we define when anthropogenic temperature and salinity changes are expected to emerge from natural variability in the ocean interior along density surfaces. The models predict that in 2020, 20–55% of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian basins have an emergent anthropogenic signal; reaching 40–65% in 2050 and 55–80% in 2080. The well-ventilated Southern Ocean water masses emerge very rapidly, as early as the 1980–1990s, while the Northern Hemisphere water masses emerge in the 2010–2030s. Our results highlight the importance of maintaining and augmenting an ocean observing system capable of detecting and monitoring persistent anthropogenic changes.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > NCAS
ID Code:92392


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