National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2008

Recent bottom water warming in the Pacific Ocean

Johnson, G.C., S. Mecking, B.M. Sloyan, and S.E. Wijffels

J. Climate, 20(21), 5365–5375, doi: 10.1175/2007JCLI1879.1 (2007)

Decadal changes of abyssal temperature in the Pacific Ocean are analyzed using high-quality, full-depth hydrographic sections, each occupied at least twice between 1984 and 2006. The deep warming found over this time period agrees with previous analyses. The analysis presented here suggests it may have occurred after 1991, at least in the North Pacific. Mean temperature changes for the three zonal and three meridional hydrographic sections analyzed here exhibit abyssal warming often significantly different from zero at 95% confidence limits for this time period. Warming rates are generally larger to the south, and smaller to the north. This pattern is consistent with changes being attenuated with distance from the source of bottom water for the Pacific Ocean, which enters the main deep basins of this ocean southeast of New Zealand. Rough estimates of the change in ocean heat content suggest that the abyssal warming may amount to a significant fraction of upper World Ocean heat gain over the past few decades.

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