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View: Abstract

Is the world ocean warming? Upper-ocean temperature trends: 1950-2000

Harrison, D.E., and M. Carson. 2007. Is the world ocean warming? Upper-ocean temperature trends: 1950-2000. Journal of Physical Oceanography 37(2): 174-187.


Subsurface temperature trends in the better-sampled parts of the World Ocean are reported. Where there are sufficient observations for this analysis, there is large spatial variability of 51-yr trends in the upper ocean, with some regions showing cooling in excess of 3°C, and others warming of similar magnitude. Some 95% of the ocean area analyzed has both cooled and warmed over 20-yr subsets of this period. There is much space and time variability of 20-yr running trend estimates, indicating that trends over a decade or two may not be representative of longer-term trends. Results are based on sorting individual observations in World Ocean Database 2001 into 1° × 1° and 2° × 2° bins. Only bins with at least five observations per decade for four of the five decades since 1950 are used. Much of the World Ocean cannot be examined from this perspective. The 51-yr trends significant at the 90% level are given particular attention. Results are presented for depths of 100, 300, and 500 m. The patterns of the 90% significant trends are spatially coherent on scales resolved by the bin size. The vertical structure of the trends is coherent in some regions, but changes sign between the analysis depths in a number of others. It is suggested that additional attention should be given to uncertainty estimates for basin average and World Ocean average thermal trends.