New, Higher Estimates of Upper Ocean Warming

The global ocean stores more than 90% of the heat associated with global warming; a new study published in Nature Climate Change has shown that the upper ocean has been warming more quickly since 1970 than models previously suggested.  Using satellite altimetry observations and a large suite of climate models, the authors found that previous estimates are about 24 to 58 percent too low. The study attributes this to a lack of data from large areas of Southern Hemisphere oceans combined with limitations of the analysis methods used in those regions where data is lacking.

Paul Durack, lead author, and oceanographer with the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, told Science magazine, “The thing that was surprising to me was the magnitude of this underestimation.” This has important implications for sea level rise and and climate sensitivity assessments.

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From Durack, P.J. et al. 2014. Quantifying underestimates of long-term upper-ocean warming. Nature Climate Change. Published online 05 October 2014