Oceans: Heat & Carbon Sinks

Oceanic heat content anomaly, a measure of heat uptake by ocean water (depth < 700m). Historical data from NOAA is also plotted. The inner (darker) and outer (lighter) shaded regions indicate the consequences of high and low population projections and non-CO2 greenhouse gas emissions pathways (RCPs 2.6 and 8.5), respectively. CLICK TO ENLARGE

Oceans are incorporated into the FeliX model as important sinks for both heat and carbon dioxide. Atmospheric-cum-oceanic systems are stratified by water depth (d) into 5 layers: 

  1. Mixed layer - atmosphere + air/water interface (water to depth of 100 m)
  2. Deep layer 1 - 100 m < d < 400 m
  3. Deep layer 2 - 400 m < d < 700 m
  4. Deep layer 3 - 700 m < d < 2000 m
  5. Deep layer 4 -  d > 2000 m

Each layer tends toward thermal and chemical equilibrium with the layers above and below it at a characteristic rate. The plot seen above right presents model results for oceanic heat content anomaly for depths less than 700m (the mixed layer and deep layers 1 and 2) in yottajoules (J x 10E24). The system is calibrated to historical data from NOAA [1], also shown in dark blue. The inner (darker) shaded region propagates the consequences of alternative population scenarios. The outer (lighter) shaded region depicts the consequences of alternative concentration pathways for non-CO2 greenhouse gases.

The plot below translates this anomaly into the temperature change in each ocean layer through 2100. This is calculated from the volume of each layer and the heat capacity of seawater. The inner (darker) and outer (lighter) shaded regions indicate the consequences of high and low population projections and non-CO2 greenhouse gas emissions (RCPs 2.6 and 8.5), respectively.

Oceanic temperature change in the BAU scenario, stratified by depth. The inner (darker) and outer (lighter) shaded regions indicate the consequences of high and low population projections and non-CO2 greenhouse gas emissions pathways (RCPs 2.6 and 8.5), respectively.

Oceanic temperature change in the BAU scenario, stratified by depth. The inner (darker) and outer (lighter) shaded regions indicate the consequences of high and low population projections and non-CO2 greenhouse gas emissions pathways (RCPs 2.6 and 8.5), respectively.

Total annual transfer of carbon [Pg] from the atmosphere to all ocean layers. CLICK TO ENLARGE

Carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere propagates through the ocean layers in the same way. The plot at left projects total (net) annual transfer of carbon from the atmosphere to oceans, while the plot below calculates the resulting carbon concentration in each deep ocean layer. In both plots, shaded regions indicate uncertainties corresponding to the 80% confidence interval for population growth projections.

Rising oceanic carbon concentration in the BAU scenario, stratified by ocean layer depth. The shaded regions indicate uncertainty corresponding to the 80% confidence interval for population growth projections.

Rising oceanic carbon concentration in the BAU scenario, stratified by ocean layer depth. The shaded regions indicate uncertainty corresponding to the 80% confidence interval for population growth projections.


[1] Levitus S., J. I. Antonov, T. P. Boyer, R. A. Locarnini, H. E. Garcia, and A. V. Mishonov, 2009. Global ocean heat content 1955-2008 in light of recently revealed instrumentation problems. GRL, 36, L07608, doi:10.1029/2008GL037155. (link)