IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007
Climate Change 2007: Working Group I: The Physical Science Basis

5.2 Changes in Global-Scale Temperature and Salinity

5.2.1 Background

Among the major challenges in understanding the climate system are quantifying the Earth’s heat balance and the freshwater balance (hydrological cycle), which both have a substantial contribution from the World Ocean. This chapter presents observational evidence that directly or indirectly helps to quantify changes in these balances.

The TAR included estimates of ocean heat content changes for the upper 3,000 m of the World Ocean. Ocean heat content change is closely proportional to the average temperature change in a volume of seawater, and is defined here as the deviation from a reference period. This section reports on updates of this estimate and presents estimates for the upper 700 m based on additional modern and historical data (Willis et al., 2004; Levitus et al., 2005b; Ishii et al., 2006). The section also presents new estimates of the temporal variability of salinity. The data used for temperature and heat content estimates are based on the World Ocean Database 2001 (e.g., Boyer et al., 2002; Conkright et al., 2002), which has been updated with more recent data. Temperature data include measurements from reversing thermometers, expendable bathythermographs, mechanical bathythermographs, conductivity-temperature-depth instruments, Argo profiling floats, moored buoys and drifting buoys. The salinity data are described by Locarnini et al. (2002) and Stephens et al. (2002).