Research Article

Ocean Climate Change: Comparison of Acoustic Tomography, Satellite Altimetry, and Modeling

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Science  28 Aug 1998:
Vol. 281, Issue 5381, pp. 1327-1332
DOI: 10.1126/science.281.5381.1327

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Abstract

Comparisons of gyre-scale acoustic and direct thermal measurements of heat content in the Pacific Ocean, satellite altimeter measurements of sea surface height, and results from a general circulation model show that only about half of the seasonal and year-to-year changes in sea level are attributable to thermal expansion. Interpreting climate change signals from fluctuations in sea level is therefore complicated. The annual cycle of heat flux is 150 ± 25 watts per square meter (peak-to-peak, corresponding to a 0.2°C vertically averaged temperature cycle); an interannual change of similar magnitude is also detected. Meteorological estimates of surface heat flux, if accurate, require a large seasonal cycle in the advective heat flux.

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