Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Ocean Sponging up Some Warmth Over Next 50 Years


NASA’s improved global climate computer model, which simulates and projects how the Earth’s climate may change, indicates that the oceans have been absorbing heat since 1951 and will continue to absorb more heat from the atmosphere over the next 50 years. This increasing ocean heat storage suggests that global surface temperatures may warm less than previous studies projected, while the ocean acts as a bigger heat sponge. Further, such additional ocean heating would likely change regional climate patterns.


This is an image of global sea surface temperatures taken from Japan National Space Development Agency’s (NASDA) AMSR-E instrument aboard NASA’s Aqua spacecraft on August 27, 2003. The colors in this false-color map represent temperatures of the ocean’s surface waters, ranging from a low of -2°C (28°F) in the darkest green areas to a high of 35°C (95°F) in the brightest yellow-white regions. Sea ice is shown as white and land is dark gray. CREDIT: NASDA/NASA

Shan Sun and James Hansen, both of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, New York, NY, used NASA’s Global Climate Model (GCM), one of the world’s leading computer climate models that simulate past and potential future climate changes. The GCM has been enhanced with new "ocean models" that better simulate how oceans currently absorb heat and will respond to a warming global climate. The study appears in the latest issue of the American Meteorological Society’s Journal of Climate.

One of the leading reports on climate change, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report of 2001, suggests that between the years 1990 and 2100 the world’s average temperature will rise between 0.6 and 2.5 degrees Celsius (C) or 1.1 and 4.5 Fahrenheit (F). "The enhanced GCM shows that the average global temperature would rise between 0.4 and 1.2 C (between 0.7 and 2.2 F) through the year 2050, for plausible increases of greenhouse gases," Sun said.

Scientists measure ocean heat storage in Watts per meter squared, the rate of heating a square meter area. For example, a miniature Christmas tree bulb dissipates about 1 Watt of energy, so one bulb over every square meter would heat at a rate of 1 Watt per meter squared.

The enhanced GCM showed the world’s oceans were storing heat at a rate of about 0.2 Watts per square meter in 1951, and in the past 50 years, as atmospheric temperatures warmed, the rate of heat storage increased to about .75 Watts per square meter, capturing more heat from the atmosphere. "This increase in ocean heat storage shows that the planet is out of energy balance," Hansen said. "This energy imbalance implies that the atmosphere and ocean will continue to warm over time, so we will see continuing climate change."

It is important to know accurately how much heat oceans are storing, because the amount of heat stored provides a measurement of the Earths energy imbalance and indicates how much global temperature may increase in the future. It’s also important to see where heat is increasing in the world’s oceans, in order to predict climate changes in various geographical regions.

Sun and Hansen also looked at changes of precipitation and ocean currents, other factors that warmer world-wide waters may impact. If greenhouse gases continue to increase rapidly, the model projects significant ocean warming during the next 50 years in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, off the U.S. west coast, which could have biological consequences for ocean life.

The results also project increased precipitation and evaporation over the North Atlantic Ocean, increasing the fresh water in the region. An increase in freshwater has long been suspected as something that could weaken the northward transport of heat by the Atlantic Ocean, thus causing Europe to become cooler, even while the world becomes warmer. Sun and Hansen find, however, that the ocean circulation does not weaken significantly according to their model, so they expect no cooling effect on Europe.

More monitoring of ocean temperatures is needed to further the studies of ocean behavior. Ocean temperature readings currently do not reach full ocean depths, as is needed to increase the accuracy of future predictions.

With the new Ocean Models included in the GCM, if easurements of the amount of heat held by oceans are improved, it may be possible to begin to better quantify the Earth’s changing radiation imbalance and its causes with an accuracy of about one decade.

This study was funded through NASA’s Earth Science Enterprise under NASA’s Climate and Oceanography Programs. The mission of NASA’s Earth Science Enterprise) is to develop a scientific understanding of the Earth system and its response to natural or human-induced changes to enable improved prediction capability for climate, weather, and natural hazards.

Rob Gutro | GSFC
Further information:

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Receding glaciers in Bolivia leave communities at risk
20.10.2016 | European Geosciences Union

nachricht UM researchers study vast carbon residue of ocean life
19.10.2016 | University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>