New progress has been made in the study of heat storage patterns in the Indian Ocean

Recently, the team of Wang Fan, a researcher at the Institute of Oceanology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, and the Institute of Atmospheric Sciences of the Chinese Academy of Sciences have made new progress in the study of heat storage patterns in the Indian Ocean, and the latest research results have been published in the international academic journal Climate Journal.

Changes in marine heat content between 0-700 m on average from 1958 to 2014 in the observation set Courtesy of the Institute of Oceanography

In the context of climate change, the oceans absorb 93% of the heat of global warming, resulting in a rapid increase in ocean heat content. The Indian Ocean has significantly increased its marine heat content, which has had a profound impact on the climate, ecology and human activities in the surrounding region. However, previous studies have focused on changes in heat content in the Indian Ocean on decadal and multidecadal scales, and the key scientific questions of how and in which regions the increased heat are stored in the Indian Ocean are not clear. 

Through the analysis of multi-source observations, the research team found that from 1958 to 2014, there was a clear pattern of “fast south and slow north” in the trend of heat content in the upper 700 meters of the Indian Ocean: rapid warming in the subtropical southern Indian Ocean, slow warming or even local cooling in the tropical Indian Ocean.

Further ocean model experiments showed that the long-term variation of the wind field at the surface of the Indian Ocean dominated the heat content trend pattern by causing the convergence of the upper water bodies of the subtropical southern Indian Ocean and the radiation of the upper water bodies of the tropical Indian Ocean, among which the long-term changes of the wind field over the subtropical southern Indian Ocean were crucial. Changes in the surface wind field mainly include the strengthening of westerly winds in the southern hemisphere and the strengthening of subtropical anticyclones over the subtropical southern Indian Ocean. Despite the systematic bias, the average heat content trend and sea surface wind pattern of multi-model ensemble are basically consistent with the observations, indicating that the influence of human activities dominates the spatial pattern of this thermal storage. This thermal storage pattern is expected to continue in the future and could significantly modulate future climate change in the Indo-Pacific. 

The research was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China, the Natural Science Foundation of Shandong Province and other projects. (Source: China Science News, Liao Yang, Wang Min)

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