National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2014

Estimating global ocean heat content changes in the upper 1800 m since 1950 and the influence of climatology choice

Lyman, J., and G.C. Johnson

J. Climate, 27, 1946–1958, doi: 10.1175/JCLI-D-12-00752.1 (2014)

Ocean heat content anomalies are analyzed from 1950 to 2011 in five distinct depth layers (0–100, 100–300, 300–700, 700–900, and 900–1800 m). These layers correspond to historic increases in common maximum sampling depths of ocean temperature measurements with time, as different instruments—mechanical bathythermograph (MBT), shallow expendable bathythermograph (XBT), deep XBT, early sometimes shallower Argo profiling floats, and recent Argo floats capable of worldwide sampling to 2000 m—have come into widespread use. This vertical separation of maps allows computation of annual ocean heat content anomalies and their sampling uncertainties back to 1950 while taking account of in situ sampling advances and changing sampling patterns. The 0–100-m layer is measured over 50% of the globe annually starting in 1956, the 100–300-m layer starting in 1967, the 300–700-m layer starting in 1983, and the deepest two layers considered here starting in 2003 and 2004, during the implementation of Argo. Furthermore, global ocean heat uptake estimates since 1950 depend strongly on assumptions made concerning changes in undersampled or unsampled ocean regions. If unsampled areas are assumed to have zero anomalies and are included in the global integrals, the choice of climatological reference from which anomalies are estimated can strongly influence the global integral values and their trend: the sparser the sampling and the bigger the mean difference between climatological and actual values, the larger the influence.

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