Climate Dynamics Group
at the University of California, Santa Cruz

The dependence of transient climate sensitivity and radiative feedbacks on the spatial pattern of ocean heat uptake

research paper
  • Brian Rose (University at Albany)
  • Kyle Armour (UW)
  • David Battisti (UW)
  • Nicole Feldl
  • Daniel Koll
updates ↓

01/24/14 Rose, B. E. J., K. C. Armour, D. S. Battisti, N. Feldl, and D. D. B. Koll (2014), Geophysical Research Letters, 41, doi:10.1002/2013GL058955.

The effect of ocean heat uptake (OHU) on transient global warming is studied in a multimodel framework. Simple heat sinks are prescribed in shallow aquaplanet ocean mixed layers underlying atmospheric general circulation models independently and combined with CO2 forcing. Sinks are localized to either tropical or high latitudes, representing distinct modes of OHU found in coupled simulations. Tropical OHU produces modest cooling at all latitudes, offsetting only a fraction of CO2 warming. High‐latitude OHU produces three times more global mean cooling in a strongly polar‐amplified pattern. Global sensitivities in each scenario are set primarily by large differences in local shortwave cloud feedbacks, robust across models. Differences in atmospheric energy transport set the pattern of temperature change. Results imply that global and regional warming rates depend sensitively on regional ocean processes setting the OHU pattern, and that equilibrium climate sensitivity cannot be reliably estimated from transient observations.