Scientists identify tropical oceans as 'beating heart' of climate change

Jul 04, 2012

(Phys.org) -- The world’s oceans are increasingly pumping tropical warm water towards the poles with important consequences for life on Earth, according to a new study.

The tropical regions of the Indian, Pacific and Atlantic Oceans appear to be “acting like a heart”, accumulating heat and then pulsing it in bursts across the planet.

When the reaches the continental shelves, it peels off in northerly and southerly directions, travelling along the shelf-line towards the poles. According to scientists at Plymouth University’s Marine Institute and the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), many of the pulses coincide with El Niño events – and their heat content is increasing in intensity.

The lead author of the report, Professor Philip Reid, of the Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science (SAHFOS) and the Marine Institute, said the global mechanism provided an explanation for the timing and connection of a wide-range of observed hydrographic, ecosystem and cryospheric (frozen ice/snow) events.

He said: “We have described for the first time a globally synchronous pattern of pulsed, short-term (one year) emanations of warm temperatures that pass along continental shelves, from tropical seas to the poles.

“Warm tropical waters appear to be acting like a heart, accumulating heat and energy, and then pumping it in bursts that progressively move toward the poles, a process that seems to be accelerating.”

Reid and research partner Dr Gregory Beaugrand mapped and statistically analysed average temperatures for every two-degree square of latitude and longitude, from 1960 until 2008 for the whole global ocean, with a finer single degree resolution along continental shelves. They found a remarkable degree of symmetry, both north and south of the equator, and very clear spikes in the temperature followed by a period of cooling.

Co-author of the report Dr Beaugrand said: "We found sudden increases in temperatures in 1976, 1987, 1998, and throughout the first decade of the new millennium that coincided with well-documented ecosystem changes."

In the late 1980s for example, the change occurred at the same time as the collapse of the cod fishery off Eastern Canada; while in 1998, there was evidence of a transarctic migration of species from the Pacific to the Atlantic that was enabled by melting sea-ice.

Dr Beaugrand said: “When you compare the timing of these warm sea surface temperature anomalies with the reductions of polar sea-ice in the Arctic and to the west of the Western Antarctic Peninsula, and the melting of ice shelves in Antarctica and Greenland, they coincide to a strong degree.”

In conversation with Prof. Reid, Dr Doug Martinson, of Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, USA, described the contrast between the temperature at the bottom of the ice shelves of Western Antarctica and the warm water that is now penetrating from the adjacent shelf edge as “comparable to a dragon blowing flames at the base of the ice”.

Professor Reid concluded: “The discovery of this new mechanism by which heat from the tropics is being moved in this pulsating manner has major and wide-ranging implications for mankind, influencing energy consumption, weather, extreme events, the cryosphere, forest fires, heat waves, droughts and ecosystems.

“If this pattern continues, global temperatures may continue to rise in sudden jumps – and the evidence suggests that the rate of rise is accelerating.”

The report – Global synchrony of an accelerating rise in sea surface temperature – is published in the Journal of the Marine Biological Association today.

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User comments : 10

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tkjtkj
4.3 / 5 (8) Jul 04, 2012
"We found sudden increases in temperatures in 1976, 1987, 1998, and throughout the first decade of the new millennium that coincided with well-documented ecosystem changes."


Does anyone else here think 'sun cycles'?? Arent they , too, 11 yrs long?
Lurker2358
2 / 5 (4) Jul 04, 2012

Does anyone else here think 'sun cycles'?? Arent they , too, 11 yrs long?


Yes, they are, but sun cycles don't increase 2 units, fall 1 unit, stick, increase 2 units, fall 1 unit, stick, increase 2 units, fall 1 unit, stick, etc.

Sun cycles should be approximately the same from every 11th year, not 0.165c hotter every 11th year relative to the previous 11th year.

After all, the U.S. is breaking record all time highs, and daily highs by 5F to 10F all over the place, especially the appalachians, and the trend continues. This is like 5C above the previous record day time high in a 120 year record...nope, sun cycles don't explain that at all...certainly not 11 year cycles anyway...

Are you a sock for Rygg or NotParker? or vice-versa?
ryggesogn2
2.7 / 5 (7) Jul 04, 2012
But the sun has nothing to do with it.

Nice chart of sunspot activity. Correlates much better than CO2.

http://notrickszo...cles.gif
Lurker2358
2.3 / 5 (3) Jul 04, 2012
Rygg:

You realize we have satellites doing complete orbits of the sun, recording all sun spots on all sides.

Hundreds of years ago, or even just a few decades ago, they did not have this. In fact, they had relatively crappy tools for viewing the Sun which would have made getting an accurate count night to impossible.
RazorsEdge
2.6 / 5 (5) Jul 04, 2012
"seems to be accelerating" is not objective enough for me. It seems that the globe is cooling, it's July 4th in SoCal and the temperature was in the 60's today.
tkjtkj
4 / 5 (4) Jul 05, 2012

Are you a sock for Rygg or NotParker? or vice-versa?


Sorry, i've no idea what youre talking about .. I'm just a doc making an obvious comment ..

Tnx for your explanations ..
rubberman
2 / 5 (4) Jul 05, 2012
"seems to be accelerating" is not objective enough for me. It seems that the globe is cooling, it's July 4th in SoCal and the temperature was in the 60's today.


When did we cram the globe into "SoCal" ?
Check the rest of of the planet too, the North American west coast isn't the norm.
Parricidium
not rated yet Jul 10, 2012
"seems to be accelerating" is not objective enough for me. It seems that the globe is cooling, it's July 4th in SoCal and the temperature was in the 60's today.

We're talking about a complex global system with changes in climates across the world - whether it's more abnormal weather, warmer temperatures, colder temperatures, more or less rain, more disasters, etc. It does humor me, by the way, that you seek objectiveness, then state 'But this year it's cooler where I am than I remember it being in previous years.'
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (1) Jul 10, 2012
Rygg:

You realize we have satellites doing complete orbits of the sun, recording all sun spots on all sides.

Hundreds of years ago, or even just a few decades ago, they did not have this. In fact, they had relatively crappy tools for viewing the Sun which would have made getting an accurate count night to impossible.

Must not be very good.
NPL and NASA want to launch traceable radiometers, TRUTHS and CLARREO because they don't have the data they really need.
http://www.npl.co.uk/TRUTHS
http://map.nasa.g...ite.html
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (2) Jul 10, 2012
"it seems likely that over the last 500 years the sun has played a role in the changing climate. However, there is little evidence to suggest that changes in irradiance are having a large impact on the current warming trend. "
http://ppg.sagepu...abstract
The sun WAS a factor in the past, BUT not now?

New evidence:
http://thegwpf.or...ity.html