Climate: Shift in Pacific Ocean pattern likely to drive global temperatures to new record highs

Global temperatures could surge in the next few years as the Pacific Ocean shifts to a warm phase.

‘In the long term, there is robust evidence of unabated global warming ..’

Staff Report

FRISCO — A shift in a decadal-scale cycle of Pacific Ocean temperatures could lead to a spike in global warming the next few years, climate researchers said after tracking a subsurface layer of unusually warm water in the Pacific and Indian oceans.

The layer, between 300 and 1,000 feet below the surface, has been accumulating more heat than previously recognized, according to climate researchers from UCLA and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, who published their finding in the journal Science.

“Given the fact the Pacific Decadal Oscillation seems to be shifting to a warm phase, ocean heating in the Pacific will definitely drive a major surge in global surface warming,” said Veronica Nieves, lead author of the study and a UCLA researcher with the UCLA Joint Institute for Regional Earth System Science and Engineering.

The study used direct ocean temperature measurements, including observations from a global network of about 3,500 ocean temperature probes known as the Argo array. These measurements show temperatures below the surface of the Pacific Ocean have been increasing and that some of that water  has been pushed to the Indian Ocean. Since 2003, unusually strong trade winds and other climatic features have been piling up warm water in the upper 1,000 feet of the western Pacific, pinning it against Asia and Australia.

“The western Pacific got so warm that some of the warm water is leaking into the Indian Ocean through the Indonesian archipelago, Nieves said.

The westward movement of the warm Pacific water pulled heat away from the surface waters of the central and eastern Pacific, which resulted in unusually cool surface temperatures during the last decade.

The shifts tracked by the study are related to a 10- to 30-year climatic pattern called the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, which has been in a cool phase for the past few decades. There currently are signs the pattern may be changing, with observations showing warmer-than-usual water in the eastern Pacific.



7 thoughts on “Climate: Shift in Pacific Ocean pattern likely to drive global temperatures to new record highs

  1. The abstract summary reads:

    Recent modeling studies have proposed different scenarios to explain the slowdown in surface temperature in the most recent decade. Some of these studies seem to support the idea of internal variability and/or rearrangement of heat between the surface and the ocean interior. Others suggest that radiative forcing might also play a role. Our examination of observational data over the past two decades shows some significant differences compared to model results from reanalyses, and provides the most definitive explanation of how the heat was redistributed. We find that cooling in the top 100-meter layer of the Pacific Ocean was mainly compensated by warming in the 100- to 300-meter layer of the Indian and Pacific Oceans in the past decade since 2003.
    The point is that the top layer temperature is ‘slowing down’…cooling?….but also, these are though modeling studies seeming to support the idea of internal variability within a set of specific ocean layers.

    To me, this is more an examination of an idea related to temperature and an article that omits a significant facet of the research and it’s purpose in order to inculcate an idea of ocean heating.

  2. I have a hard time accepting the proposed theory of a ‘cooler’ layer of ocean water on top of a layer of warmer water. That appears to go in the face of the law of physics that states that cooler water is denser and hence heavier than warm water. A vertical equalization current is to be expected to restore natural balance.

    1. That man continues to use the basics of Physics to try to understand ‘Chaos’ is a fool’s game.. One single burp of Dark Matter would vaporize the earth and all that it hosts for life..
      Just be ready to evacuate quickly if things go awry.., as it did for many commuters on that California highway.., the 15,000 scouts and girl guides that had to seek shelter in Strasbourg in the middle of the night because of freakish fierce winds.. Climate Change is quite real..

    2. I would suppose that the top layer is still warmer than the bottom layer (rather typical), however it’s temperature change profile is altering in an inexplainable or poorly understood manner.

    3. Water density has a unique behaviour – it increases in density as it cools until it reaches 39 deg F. As water cools further ( < 39 Deg F) the density actually starts to decrease, therefore the greatest density of water is 39 deg F. This helps explain why cooler water is on top of the warmer water.

  3. Thermal inversion layers in the oceans and the atmosphere are common. In the atmosphere they often create smog pockets over populated areas. At depths the pressures make the density differences less critical.

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