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Warming of Global Abyssal and Deep Southern Ocean Waters between the 1990s and 2000s: Contributions to Global Heat and Sea Level Rise Budgets

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  • 1 School of Oceanography, University of Washington, and NOAA/Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, Seattle, Washington
  • | 2 NOAA/Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, and School of Oceanography, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington
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Abstract

Abyssal global and deep Southern Ocean temperature trends are quantified between the 1990s and 2000s to assess the role of recent warming of these regions in global heat and sea level budgets. The authors 1) compute warming rates with uncertainties along 28 full-depth, high-quality hydrographic sections that have been occupied two or more times between 1980 and 2010; 2) divide the global ocean into 32 basins, defined by the topography and climatological ocean bottom temperatures; and then 3) estimate temperature trends in the 24 sampled basins. The three southernmost basins show a strong statistically significant abyssal warming trend, with that warming signal weakening to the north in the central Pacific, western Atlantic, and eastern Indian Oceans. Eastern Atlantic and western Indian Ocean basins show statistically insignificant abyssal cooling trends. Excepting the Arctic Ocean and Nordic seas, the rate of abyssal (below 4000 m) global ocean heat content change in the 1990s and 2000s is equivalent to a heat flux of 0.027 (±0.009) W m−2 applied over the entire surface of the earth. Deep (1000–4000 m) warming south of the Subantarctic Front of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current adds 0.068 (±0.062) W m−2. The abyssal warming produces a 0.053 (±0.017) mm yr−1 increase in global average sea level and the deep warming south of the Subantarctic Front adds another 0.093 (±0.081) mm yr−1. Thus, warming in these regions, ventilated primarily by Antarctic Bottom Water, accounts for a statistically significant fraction of the present global energy and sea level budgets.

Corresponding author address: Gregory C. Johnson, NOAA/Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, 7600 Sand Point Way NE, Bldg. 3, Seattle, WA 98115. Email: gregory.c.johnson@noaa.gov

Abstract

Abyssal global and deep Southern Ocean temperature trends are quantified between the 1990s and 2000s to assess the role of recent warming of these regions in global heat and sea level budgets. The authors 1) compute warming rates with uncertainties along 28 full-depth, high-quality hydrographic sections that have been occupied two or more times between 1980 and 2010; 2) divide the global ocean into 32 basins, defined by the topography and climatological ocean bottom temperatures; and then 3) estimate temperature trends in the 24 sampled basins. The three southernmost basins show a strong statistically significant abyssal warming trend, with that warming signal weakening to the north in the central Pacific, western Atlantic, and eastern Indian Oceans. Eastern Atlantic and western Indian Ocean basins show statistically insignificant abyssal cooling trends. Excepting the Arctic Ocean and Nordic seas, the rate of abyssal (below 4000 m) global ocean heat content change in the 1990s and 2000s is equivalent to a heat flux of 0.027 (±0.009) W m−2 applied over the entire surface of the earth. Deep (1000–4000 m) warming south of the Subantarctic Front of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current adds 0.068 (±0.062) W m−2. The abyssal warming produces a 0.053 (±0.017) mm yr−1 increase in global average sea level and the deep warming south of the Subantarctic Front adds another 0.093 (±0.081) mm yr−1. Thus, warming in these regions, ventilated primarily by Antarctic Bottom Water, accounts for a statistically significant fraction of the present global energy and sea level budgets.

Corresponding author address: Gregory C. Johnson, NOAA/Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, 7600 Sand Point Way NE, Bldg. 3, Seattle, WA 98115. Email: gregory.c.johnson@noaa.gov

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