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Kevin E. Trenberth, Yongxin Zhang, John T. Fasullo, and Lijing Cheng


Ocean meridional heat transports (MHTs) are deduced as a residual using energy budgets to produce latitude versus time series for the globe, Indo-Pacific, and Atlantic. The top-of-atmosphere (TOA) radiation is combined with the vertically integrated atmospheric energy divergence from atmospheric reanalyses to produce the net surface energy fluxes everywhere. The latter is then combined with estimates of the vertically integrated ocean heat content (OHC) tendency to produce estimates of the ocean heat divergence. Because seasonal sea ice and land runoff effects are not fully considered, the mean annual cycle is incomplete, but those effects are small for interannual variability. However, there is a mismatch between 12-month inferred surface flux and the corresponding OHC changes globally, requiring adjustments to account for the Earth’s global energy imbalance. Estimates are greatly improved by building in the constraint that MHT must go to zero at the northern and southern extents of the ocean basin at all times, enabling biases between the TOA and OHC data to be reconciled. Zonal mean global, Indo-Pacific, and Atlantic basin ocean MHTs are computed and presented as 12-month running means and for the mean annual cycle for 2000–16. For the Indo-Pacific, the tropical and subtropical MHTs feature a strong relationship with El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO), and in the Atlantic, MHT interannual variability is significantly affected by and likely influences the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). However, Atlantic and Pacific changes are linked, suggesting that the northern annular mode (as opposed to NAO) is predominant. There is also evidence of decadal variability or trends.

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