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Viktor Gouretski
,
Lijing Cheng
, and
Tim Boyer

Abstract

Nansen bottle casts served as the main oceanographic instrumentation type for more than a century since the establishing of the technique in the late 1890s. Between the end of the 1960s and the end of the 1990s Nansen cast technique has been gradually replaced by electronic sensor profilers (CTD). Both instrumentation types are considered as the most accurate among other oceanographic instruments and are often used as the unbiased reference. We conducted a comprehensive investigation of the consistency of the temperature data from Nansen casts and CTD profilers analyzing the quasi-collocated bottle and CTD data between the 1960s and the 1990s when both instrumentation types overlap. We found that Nansen casts tend to overestimate the sample depth with reversing mercury-in-glass thermometer temperatures being on average slightly lower compared to CTD data. Respectively, depth and temperature corrections are provided. Further, we estimated the ocean heat content changes between 1955 and 1990 using (along with all other instrumentation types) corrected and uncorrected Nansen cast data. These calculations show that for the upper 2 km layer the global average warming trend for this time period increases from 0.20 ± 0.05 W m−2 for the uncorrected data to 0.28 ± 0.06 W m−2 for the corrected data at the 90% confidence level. Finally, we suggest that the Nansen bottle cast profiles be put into a separate instrumentation group within the World Ocean Database.

Free access
Lijing Cheng
,
Jiang Zhu
,
Rebecca Cowley
,
Tim Boyer
, and
Susan Wijffels

Abstract

Systematic biases in historical expendable bathythermograph (XBT) data are examined using two datasets: 4151 XBT–CTD side-by-side pairs from 1967 to 2011 and 218 653 global-scale XBT–CTD pairs (within one month and 1°) extracted from the World Ocean Database 2009 (WOD09) from 1966 to 2010. Using the side-by-side dataset, it was found that both the pure thermal bias and the XBT fall rate (from which the depth of observation is calculated) increase with water temperature. Correlations between the terminal velocity A and deceleration B terms of the fall-rate equation (FRE) and between A and the offset from the surface terms are obtained, with A as the dominant term in XBT fall-rate behavior. To quantify the time variation of the XBT fall-rate and pure temperature biases, global-scale XBT–CTD pairs are used. Based on the results from the two datasets, a new correction scheme for historical XBT data is proposed for nine independent probe-type groups. The scheme includes corrections for both temperature and depth records, which are all variable with calendar year, water temperature, and probe type. The results confirm those found in previous studies: a slowing in fall rate during the 1970s and 2000s and the large pure thermal biases during 1970–85. The performance of nine different correction schemes is compared. After the proposed corrections are applied to the XBT data in the WOD09 dataset, global ocean heat content from 1967 to 2010 is reestimated.

Full access
Rebecca Cowley
,
Susan Wijffels
,
Lijing Cheng
,
Tim Boyer
, and
Shoichi Kizu

Abstract

Because they make up 56% of ocean temperature profile data between 1967 and 2001, quantifying the biases in expendable bathythermograph (XBT) data is fundamental to understanding the evolution of the planetary energy and sea level budgets over recent decades. The nature and time history of these biases remain in dispute and dominate differences in analyses of the history of ocean warming. A database of over 4100 side-by-side deployments of XBTs and conductivity–temperature–depth (CTD) data has been assembled, and this unique resource is used to characterize and separate out the pure temperature bias from depth error in a way that was not previously possible. Two independent methods of bias extraction confirm that the results are robust to bias model and fitting method. It was found that there is a pure temperature bias in Sippican probes of ~0.05°C, independent of depth. The temperature bias has a time dependency, being larger (~0.1°C) in the earlier analog acquisition era and being likely due to changes in recorder type. Large depth errors are found in the 1970s–80s in shallower-measuring Sippican T4/T6 probe types, but the deeper-measuring Sippican T7/Deep Blue (DB) types have no error during this time. The Sippican T7/DB fall rate slows from ~1990 onward. It is found that year-to-year variations in fall rate have a bigger effect on corrections to the global XBT database than do any small effects of ocean temperature on fall rate. This study has large implications for the future development of better schemes to correct the global historical XBT archive.

Full access
Matthew D. Palmer
,
Tim Boyer
,
Rebecca Cowley
,
Shoichi Kizu
,
Franco Reseghetti
,
Toru Suzuki
, and
Ann Thresher

Abstract

Time-varying biases in expendable bathythermograph (XBT) instruments have emerged as a key uncertainty in estimates of historical ocean heat content variability and change. One of the challenges in the development of XBT bias corrections is the lack of metadata in ocean profile databases. Approximately 50% of XBT profiles in the World Ocean database (WOD) have no information about manufacturer or probe type. Building on previous research efforts, this paper presents a deterministic algorithm for assigning missing XBT manufacturer and probe type for individual temperature profiles based on 1) the reporting country, 2) the maximum reported depth, and 3) the record date. The criteria used are based on bulk analysis of known XBT profiles in the WOD for the period 1966–2015. A basic skill assessment demonstrates a 77% success rate at correctly assigning manufacturer and probe type for profiles where this information is available. The skill rate is lowest during the early 1990s, which is also a period when metadata information is particularly poor. The results suggest that substantive improvements could be made through further data analysis and that future algorithms may benefit from including a larger number of predictor variables.

Open access
Tim Boyer
,
V. V. Gopalakrishna
,
Franco Reseghetti
,
Amit Naik
,
V. Suneel
,
M. Ravichandran
,
N. P. Mohammed Ali
,
M. M. Mohammed Rafeeq
, and
R. Anthony Chico

Abstract

Long time series of XBT data in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea are valuable datasets for exploring and understanding climate variability. However, such studies of interannual and longer-scale variability of temperature require an understanding, and, if possible, a correction of errors introduced by biases in the XBT and expendable conductivity–temperature–depth (XCTD) data. Two cruises in each basin were undertaken in 2008/09 on which series of tests of XBTs and XCTDs dropped simultaneously with CTD casts were performed. The XBT and XCTD depths were corrected by comparison with CTD data using a modification of an existing algorithm. Significant probe-to-probe fall-rate equation (FRE) velocity and deceleration coefficient variability was found within a cruise, as well as cruise-to-cruise variability. A small (∼0.01°C) temperature bias was also identified for XBTs on each cruise. No new FRE can be proposed for either the Bay of Bengal or the Arabian Sea for XBTs. For the more consistent XCTD, basin-specific FREs are possible for the Bay of Bengal, but not for the Arabian Sea. The XCTD FRE velocity coefficients are significantly higher than the XCTD manufacturers’ FRE coefficient or those from previous tests, possibly resulting from the influence of temperature on XCTD FRE. Mean temperature anomalies versus a long-term mean climatology for XBT data using the present default FRE have a bias (which is positive for three cruises and negative for one cruise) compared to the mean temperature anomalies for CTD data. Some improvement is found when applying newly calculated cruise-specific FREs. This temperature error must be accounted for in any study of temperature change in the regions.

Full access