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Review ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Mar. Sci. | doi: 10.3389/fmars.2019.00416

Adequacy of the ocean observation system for quantifying regional heat and freshwater storage and change

  • 1Met Office Hadley Centre (MOHC), United Kingdom
  • 2Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, United States Department of Energy (DOE), United States
  • 3National Council for Scientific and Technical Research (CONICET), Argentina
  • 4University of New South Wales, Australia
  • 5Institut de recherche pour le développement (IRD), New Caledonia
  • 6World Meteorological Organization, Switzerland
  • 7Nansen Environmental and Remote Sensing Center, Norway
  • 8GEOMAR Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research Kiel, Germany
  • 9NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), United States
  • 10Ocean Observing and Monitoring Division, Climate Program Office (NOAA), United States
  • 11University of California, San Diego, United States
  • 12Atmosphere and Ocean Research Institute, University of Tokyo, Japan
  • 13Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI), Germany
  • 14UMR7159 Laboratoire d'océanographie et du climat expérimentations et approches numériques (LOCEAN), France
  • 15CSIRO Oceans and Atmopshere, Australia
  • 16École Normale Supérieure, France
  • 17Mercator Ocean (France), France
  • 18Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, United States

Considerable advances in the global ocean observing system over the last two decades offers an opportunity to provide more quantitative information on changes in heat and freshwater storage. Variations in these storage terms can arise through internal variability and also the response of the ocean to anthropogenic climate change. Disentangling these competing influences on the regional patterns of change and elucidating their governing processes remains an outstanding scientific challenge. This challenge is compounded by instrumental and sampling uncertainties. The combined use of ocean observations and model simulations is the most viable method to assess the forced signal from noise and ascertain the primary drivers of variability and change. Moreover, this approach offers the potential for improved seasonal-to-decadal predictions and the possibility to develop powerful multi-variate constraints on climate model future projections. Regional heat storage changes dominate the steric contribution to sea level rise over most of the ocean and are vital to understanding both global and regional heat budgets. Variations in regional freshwater storage are particularly relevant to our understanding of changes in the hydrological cycle and can potentially be used to verify local ocean mass addition from terrestrial and cryospheric systems associated with contemporary sea level rise. This White Paper will examine the ability of the current ocean observing system to quantify changes in regional heat and freshwater storage. In particular we will seek to answer the question: What time and space scales are currently resolved in different regions of the global oceans? In light of some of the key scientific questions, we will discuss the requirements for measurement accuracy, sampling, and coverage as well as the synergies that can be leveraged by more comprehensively analysing the multi-variable arrays provided by the integrated observing system.

Keywords: Heat content, Freshwater content, Salinity, temperature, ocean observing system, Climate Change, climate variability, Observing system design

Received: 23 Oct 2018; Accepted: 05 Jul 2019.

Copyright: © 2019 Palmer, Durack, Chidichimo, Church, Cravatte, Hill, Johannessen, Karstensen, Lee, Legler, Mazloff, Oka, Purkey, Rabe, Sallée, Sloyan, Speich, von Schuckmann, Willis and Wijffels. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Matthew D. Palmer, Met Office Hadley Centre (MOHC), Exeter, United Kingdom,