Influences of the Choice of Climatology on Ocean Heat Content Estimation

Lijing Cheng International Center for Climate and Environment Sciences, Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China

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Jiang Zhu International Center for Climate and Environment Sciences, Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China

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Abstract

The choice of climatology is an essential step in calculating the key climate indicators, such as historical ocean heat content (OHC) change. The anomaly field is required during the calculation and is obtained by subtracting the climatology from the absolute field. The climatology represents the ocean spatial variability and seasonal circle. This study found a considerable weaker long-term trend when historical climatologies (constructed by using historical observations within a long time period, i.e., 45 yr) were used rather than Argo-period climatologies (i.e., constructed by using observations during the Argo period, i.e., since 2004). The change of the locations of the observations (horizontal sampling) during the past 50 yr is responsible for this divergence, because the ship-based system pre-2000 has insufficient sampling of the global ocean, for instance, in the Southern Hemisphere, whereas this area began to achieve full sampling in this century by the Argo system. The horizontal sampling change leads to the change of the reference time (and reference OHC) when the historical-period climatology is used, which weakens the long-term OHC trend. Therefore, Argo-period climatologies should be used to accurately assess the long-term trend of the climate indicators, such as OHC.

Corresponding author address: Jiang Zhu, ICCES, Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, P.O. Box 9804, Beijing 100029, China. E-mail: jzhu@mail.iap.ac.cn; chenglij@mail.iap.ac.cn

Abstract

The choice of climatology is an essential step in calculating the key climate indicators, such as historical ocean heat content (OHC) change. The anomaly field is required during the calculation and is obtained by subtracting the climatology from the absolute field. The climatology represents the ocean spatial variability and seasonal circle. This study found a considerable weaker long-term trend when historical climatologies (constructed by using historical observations within a long time period, i.e., 45 yr) were used rather than Argo-period climatologies (i.e., constructed by using observations during the Argo period, i.e., since 2004). The change of the locations of the observations (horizontal sampling) during the past 50 yr is responsible for this divergence, because the ship-based system pre-2000 has insufficient sampling of the global ocean, for instance, in the Southern Hemisphere, whereas this area began to achieve full sampling in this century by the Argo system. The horizontal sampling change leads to the change of the reference time (and reference OHC) when the historical-period climatology is used, which weakens the long-term OHC trend. Therefore, Argo-period climatologies should be used to accurately assess the long-term trend of the climate indicators, such as OHC.

Corresponding author address: Jiang Zhu, ICCES, Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, P.O. Box 9804, Beijing 100029, China. E-mail: jzhu@mail.iap.ac.cn; chenglij@mail.iap.ac.cn
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