National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2020

Warming trends increasingly dominate Global Ocean

Johnson, G.C., and J.M. Lyman

Nature Clim. Change, 10, 757–761, doi: 10.1038/s41558-020-0822-0, View online (2020)

The ocean takes up about 93% of the global warming heat entering Earth’s climate system. In addition, the associated thermal expansion contributes substantially to sea-level rise. Hence, quantifying the oceanic heat uptake rate and its statistical significance has been a research focus. Here we use gridded ocean heat content maps to examine regional trends in ocean warming for 0–700 m depth from 1993–2019 and 1968–2019, periods based on sampling distributions. The maps are from four research groups, three based on ocean temperature alone and one combining ocean temperature with satellite altimeter sea-level anomalies. We show that use of longer periods results in larger percentages of ocean area with statistically significant warming trends and less ocean area covered by statistically significant cooling trends. We discuss relations of these patterns to climate phenomena, including the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation and global warming.

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