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Xinfeng Liang, Chao Liu, Rui M. Ponte, and Don P. Chambers

Abstract

Ocean heat content (OHC) is key to estimating the energy imbalance of the earth system. Over the past two decades, an increasing number of OHC studies were conducted using oceanic objective analysis (OA) products. Here we perform an intercomparison of OHC from eight OA products with a focus on their robust features and significant differences over the Argo period (2005-2019), when the most reliable global scale oceanic measurements are available. For the global ocean, robust warming in the upper 2000 m is confirmed. The 0-300 m layer shows the highest warming rate but is heavily modulated by interannual variability, particularly the El Niño–Southern Oscillation. The 300-700 m and 700-2000 m layers, on the other hand, show unabated warming. Regionally, the Southern Ocean and mid-latitude North Atlantic show a substantial OHC increase, and the subpolar North Atlantic displays an OHC decrease. A few apparent differences in OHC among the examined OA products were identified. In particular, temporal means of a few OA products that incorporated other ocean measurements besides Argo show a global-scale cooling difference, which is likely related to the baseline climatology fields used to generate those products. Large differences also appear in the interannual variability in the Southern Ocean and in the long-term trends in the subpolar North Atlantic. These differences remind us of the possibility of product-dependent conclusions on OHC variations. Caution is therefore warranted when using merely one OA product to conduct OHC studies, particularly in regions and on timescales that display significant differences.

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Chao Liu, Xinfeng Liang, Don P. Chambers, and Rui M. Ponte

Abstract

Salinity is one of the fundamental ocean state variables and has been used to infer important information about climate change and variability. Previous studies have found inconsistent salinity variations in various objective ocean analyses that are based on the Argo measurements. However, as far as we are aware, a comprehensive assessment of those inconsistencies, as well as robust spatial and temporal features of salinity variability among the Argo-based products, has not been conducted. Here we compare and evaluate ocean salinity variability from five objective ocean analyses that are solely or primarily based on Argo measurements for their overlapping period from 2005 to 2015. We examine the salinity variability at the sea surface and within two depth intervals (0–700 and 700–2000 m). Our results show that the climatological mean is generally consistent among all examined products, although regional discrepancies are evident in the subsurface ocean. The time evolution, vertical structure, and leading EOF modes of salinity variations show good agreement among most of the examined products, indicating that a number of robust features of the salinity variability can be obtained by examining gridded Argo products. However, significant discrepancies in these variations exist, particularly in the subsurface North Atlantic and Southern Oceans. Also, despite the increasing number of Argo floats deployed in the ocean, the discrepancies were not significantly reduced over time. Our analyses, particularly those of the discrepancies between products, can serve as a useful reference for utilizing and improving the existing objective ocean analyses that are based on Argo measurements.

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