Recent improvements in ocean heat content estimation

Thursday, 17 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
John P Abraham, Organization Not Listed, Washington, DC, United States
Increase of ocean heat content is an outcome of a persistent and ongoing energy imbalance to the Earth’s climate system. This imbalance, largely caused by human emissions of greenhouse gases, has engendered a multi-decade increase in stored thermal energy within the Earth system, manifest principally as an increase in ocean heat content. Consequently, in order to quantify the rate of global warming, it is necessary to measure the rate of increase of ocean heat content. The historical record of ocean heat content is extracted from a history of various devices and spatial/temporal coverage across the globe. One of the most important historical devices is the eXpendable BathyThermograph (XBT) which has been used for decades to measure ocean temperatures to depths of 700m and deeper. Here, recent progress in improving the XBT record of upper ocean heat content is described including corrections to systematic biases, filling in spatial gaps where data does not exist, and the selection of a proper climatology. In addition, comparisons of the revised historical record and CMIP5 climate models are made. It is seen that there is very good agreement between the models and measurements, with the models slightly under-predicting the increase of ocean heat content in the upper water layers over the past 45 years.