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When my kids were younger, they asked me why the ocean was blue. I would answer that the ocean mirrors the blue sky. However, I would not think much more about it, even though it is well-known that the oceans represent the most important source for atmospheric moisture. They also play an important role for many types of internal variations, such as the El Nino Southern Oscillation. Now a new study by Durack et al. (2012) has been published in Science that presents the relationship between the oceans and the atmosphere.
P.J. Durack, S.E. Wijffels, and R.J. Matear, "Ocean Salinities Reveal Strong Global Water Cycle Intensification During 1950 to 2000", Science, vol. 336, pp. 455-458, 2012. http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.1212222
The connection between global warming and the changes in ocean heat content has long been a subject of discussion in climate science. This was explicitly discussed in Hansen et al, 1997 where they predicted that over the last few decades of the 20th Century, there should have been a significant increase in ocean heat content (OHC). Note that at the time, there had not been any observational estimate of that change (the first was in 2000 (Levitus et al, 2000)), giving yet another example of a successful climate model prediction. At RC, we have tracked the issue multiple times e.g. 2005, 2008 and 2010. Over the last few months, though, there have been a number of new papers on this connection that provide some interesting perspective on the issue which will certainly continue as the CMIP5 models start to get analysed.
S. Levitus, "Warming of the World Ocean", Science, vol. 287, pp. 2225-2229, 2000. http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.287.5461.2225
Readers may recall discussions of a paper by Thompson et al (2008) back in May 2008. This paper demonstrated that there was very likely an artifact in the sea surface temperature (SST) collation by the Hadley Centre (HadSST2) around the end of the second world war and for a few years subsequently, related to the different ways ocean temperatures were taken by different fleets. At the time, we reported that this would certainly be taken into account in revisions of data set as more data was processed and better classifications of the various observational biases occurred. Well, that process has finally resulted in the publication of a new compilation, HadSST3.
A group of colleagues have succeeded in producing the first continuous proxy record of sea level for the past 2000 years. According to this reconstruction, 20th-Century sea-level rise on the U.S. Atlantic coast is faster than at any time in the past two millennia.
Good data on past sea levels is hard to come by. Reconstructing the huge rise at the end of the last glacial (120 meters) is not too bad, because a few meters uncertainty in sea level or a few centuries in dating don’t matter all that much. But to trace the subtle variations of the last millennia requires more precise methods.
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