Simulated Rapid Warming of Abyssal North Pacific Waters

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Science  24 Jun 2010:
DOI: 10.1126/science.1188703


Recent observational surveys have shown significant oceanic bottom-water warming. However, the mechanisms causing such warming remain poorly understood and their time scales are uncertain. Here, we report computer simulations that reveal a fast teleconnection between changes in the surface air-sea heat flux off the Adélie Coast of Antarctica and the bottom-water warming in the North Pacific. In contrast to conventional estimates of a multicentennial timescale, this link is established over only four decades through the action of internal waves. Changes in the heat content of the deep ocean are thus far more sensitive to the air-sea thermal interchanges than previously considered. Our findings require a reassessment of the role of the Southern Ocean in determining the impact of atmospheric warming on deep oceanic waters.