Billions of blow dryers: Some missing heat returns to haunt us
"The heat will come back to haunt us sooner or later..." -- Kevin Trenberth, referring to our inability over the past 5 years to locate half a watt per square meter per year of energy accumulated on Earth as a result of anthropogenic warming of the planet, approximately half of the expected warming signal.
We quantify abyssal global and deep Southern Ocean temperature trends between the 1990s and 2000s to assess the role of recent warming of these regions in global heat and sea level budgets. We compute warming rates with uncertainties along 28 full-depth, high-quality, hydrographic sections that have been occupied two or more times between 1980 and 2010. We divide the global ocean into 32 basins defined by the topography and climatological ocean bottom temperatures and estimate temperature trends in the 24 sampled basins. The three southernmost basins show a strong statistically significant abyssal warming trend, with that warming signal weakening to the north in the central Pacific, western Atlantic, and eastern Indian Oceans. Eastern Atlantic and western Indian Ocean basins show statistically insignificant abyssal cooling trends. Excepting the Arctic Ocean and Nordic seas, the rate of abyssal (below 4000 m) global ocean heat content change in the 1990s and 2000s is equivalent to a heat flux of 0.027 (±0.009) W m–2 applied over the entire surface of the Earth. Deep (1000–4000 m) warming south of the Sub-Antarctic Front of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current adds 0.068 (±0.062) W m–2. The abyssal warming produces a 0.053 (±0.017) mm yr–1 increase in global average sea level and the deep warming south of the Sub-Antarctic Front adds another 0.093 (±0.081) mm yr–1. Thus warming in these regions, ventilated primarily by Antarctic Bottom Water, accounts for a statistically significant fraction of the present global energy and sea level budgets.
"Mean local heat fluxes through 4000 m implied by abyssal warming below 4000 m from the 1990s to the 2000s within each of the 24 sampled basins (black numbers and colorbar) with 95% confidence intervals and the local contribution to the heat flux through 1000 m south of the SAF (magenta line) implied by deep Southern Ocean warming from 1000–4000 m is also given (magenta number) with its 95% confidence interval." (Purkey & Johnson 2010)