Upper Ocean Temperatures Hit Record High in 2020

  • Cheng L
  • Abraham J
  • Trenberth K
  • et al.
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Citation: Cheng, L. J., and Coauthors, 2021: Upper ocean temperatures hit record high in 2020. Adv. Atmos. Sci., 38(4), 523−530, https://doi.org/10.1007/s00376-021-0447-x. The long-term warming of the ocean is a critical indicator of both the past and present state of the climate system. It also provides insights about the changes to come, owing to the persistence of both decadal variations and secular trends, which the ocean records extremely well (Hansen et al., 2011; IPCC, 2013; Rhein et al., 2013; Trenberth et al., 2016; Abram et al., 2019). It is well established that the emission of greenhouse gasses by human activities is mainly responsible for global warming since the industrial revolution (IPCC, 2013; Abram et al., 2019). The increased concentration of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has interfered with natural energy flows. Currently there is an energy imbalance in the Earth's climate system of almost 1 W m −2 (Trenberth et al., 2014; von Schuckmann et al., 2016, 2020a; Wijffels et al., 2016; Johnson et al., 2018; Cheng et al., 2019a; von Schuckmann et al., 2020a). Over 90% of this excess heat is absorbed by the oceans, leading to an increase of ocean heat content (OHC) and sea level rise, mainly through thermal expansion and melting of ice over land. These processes provide a useful means to quantify climate change. The first global OHC time series by Levitus et al. (2000) identified a robust long-term 0−3000 m ocean warming from 1948−98. Since then, many other analyses of global and regional OHC data have been performed. Here, we provide the first analysis of recent ocean heating, incorporating 2020 measurements through 2020 into our analysis.




Cheng, L., Abraham, J., Trenberth, K. E., Fasullo, J., Boyer, T., Locarnini, R., … Zhu, J. (2021). Upper Ocean Temperatures Hit Record High in 2020. Advances in Atmospheric Sciences, 38(4), 523–530. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00376-021-0447-x

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