National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2019

Deep Argo quantifies bottom water warming rates in the southwest Pacific Basin

Johnson, G.C., S.G. Purkey, N.V. Zilbermann, and D. Roemmich

Geophys. Res. Lett., 46(5), 2662-2669, doi: 10.1029/2018GL081685, View online (2019)

Data reported from mid‐2014 to late 2018 by a regional pilot array of Deep Argo floats in the Southwest Pacific Basin are used to estimate regional temperature anomalies from a long‐term climatology as well as regional trends over the 4.4 years of float data as a function of pressure. The data show warm anomalies that increase with increasing pressure from effectively 0 near 2,000 dbar to over 10 (±1) m°C by 4,800 dbar, uncertainties estimated at 5–95%. The 4.4‐year trend estimate shows warming at an average rate of 3 (±1) m°C/year from 5,000 to 5,600 dbar, in the near‐homogeneous layer of cold, dense bottom water of Antarctic origin. These results suggest acceleration of previously reported long‐term warming trends in the abyssal waters in this region. They also demonstrate the ability of Deep Argo to quantify changes in the deep ocean in near real‐time over short periods with high accuracy.

Plain Language Summary: The coldest waters that fill much of the deep ocean worldwide originate near Antarctica. Temperature data collected from oceanographic cruises around the world at roughly 10‐year intervals show that these near‐bottom waters have been warming on average since the 1990s, absorbing a substantial amount of heat. Data from an array of robotic profiling Deep Argo floats deployed in the Southwest Pacific Ocean starting in mid‐2014 reveal that near‐bottom waters there have continued to warm over the past 4.4 years. Furthermore, these new data suggest an acceleration of that warming rate. These data show that Deep Argo floats are capable of accurately measuring regional changes in the deep ocean. The ocean is the largest sink of heat on our warming planet. A global array of Deep Argo floats would provide data on how much Earth's climate system is warming and possibly improve predictions of future warming.

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