What caused the significant increase in Atlantic Ocean heat content since the mid-20th century?

Sang Ki Lee, Wonsun Park, Erik Van Sebille, Molly O. Baringer, Chunzai Wang, David B. Enfield, Stephen G. Yeager, Ben P. Kirtman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

52 Scopus citations

Abstract

As the upper layer of the world ocean warms gradually during the 20th century, the inter-ocean heat transport from the Indian to Atlantic basin should be enhanced, and the Atlantic Ocean should therefore gain extra heat due to the increased upper ocean temperature of the inflow via the Agulhas leakage. Consistent with this hypothesis, instrumental records indicate that the Atlantic Ocean has warmed substantially more than any other ocean basin since the mid-20th century. A surface-forced global ocean-ice coupled model is used to test this hypothesis and to find that the observed warming trend of the Atlantic Ocean since the 1950s is largely due to an increase in the inter-ocean heat transport from the Indian Ocean. Further analysis reveals that the increased inter-ocean heat transport is not only caused by the increased upper ocean temperature of the inflow but also, and more strongly, by the increased Agulhas Current leakage, which is augmented by the strengthening of the wind stress curl over the South Atlantic and Indian subtropical gyre.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberL17607
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Volume38
Issue number17
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 1 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)

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    Lee, S. K., Park, W., Van Sebille, E., Baringer, M. O., Wang, C., Enfield, D. B., Yeager, S. G., & Kirtman, B. P. (2011). What caused the significant increase in Atlantic Ocean heat content since the mid-20th century? Geophysical Research Letters, 38(17), [L17607]. https://doi.org/10.1029/2011GL048856