eCite Digital Repository

Sensitivity of global upper-ocean heat content estimates to mapping methods, XBT bias corrections, and baseline climatologies


Boyer, T and Domingues, CM and Good, SA and Johnson, GC and Lyman, JM and Ishii, M and Gouretski, V and Willis, JK and Antonov, J and Wijffels, S and Church, JA and Cowley, R and Bindoff, NL, Sensitivity of global upper-ocean heat content estimates to mapping methods, XBT bias corrections, and baseline climatologies, Journal of Climate, 29, (13) pp. 4817-4842. ISSN 0894-8755 (2016) [Refereed Article]


Copyright Statement

Copyright 2016 American Meteorological Society (AMS). Permission to use figures, tables, and brief excerpts from this work in scientific and educational works is hereby granted provided that the source is acknowledged. Any use of material in this work that is determined to be “fair use” under Section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Act September 2010 Page 2 or that satisfies the conditions specified in Section 108 of the U.S. Copyright Act (17 USC §108, as revised by P.L. 94-553) does not require the AMS’s permission. Republication, systematic reproduction, posting in electronic form, such as on a web site or in a searchable database, or other uses of this material, except as exempted by the above statement, requires written permission or a license from the AMS. Additional details are provided in the AMS Copyright Policy, available on the AMS Web site located at ( or from the AMS at 617-227-2425 or

DOI: doi:10.1175/JCLI-D-15-0801.1


Ocean warming accounts for the majority of the earth’s recent energy imbalance. Historic ocean heat content (OHC) changes are important for understanding changing climate. Calculations of OHC anomalies (OHCA) from in situ measurements provide estimates of these changes. Uncertainties in OHCA estimates arise from calculating global fields from temporally and spatially irregular data (mapping method), instrument bias corrections, and the definitions of a baseline climatology from which anomalies are calculated. To investigate sensitivity of OHCA estimates for the upper 700 m to these different factors, the same quality-controlled dataset is used by seven groups and comparisons are made. Two time periods (1970–2008 and 1993–2008) are examined. Uncertainty due to the mapping method is 16.5 ZJ for 1970–2008 and 17.1 ZJ for 1993–2008 (1 ZJ = 1 Χ 1021 J). Uncertainty due to instrument bias correction varied from 8.0 to 17.9 ZJ for 1970–2008 and from 10.9 to 22.4 ZJ for 1993–2008, depending on mapping method. Uncertainty due to baseline mean varied from 3.5 to 14.5 ZJ for 1970–2008 and from 2.7 to 9.8 ZJ for 1993–2008, depending on mapping method and offsets. On average mapping method is the largest source of uncertainty. The linear trend varied from 1.3 to 5.0 ZJ yr−1 (0.08–0.31 W m−2) for 1970–2008 and from 1.5 to 9.4 ZJ yr−1 (0.09–0.58 W m−2) for 1993–2008, depending on method, instrument bias correction, and baseline mean. Despite these complications, a statistically robust upper-ocean warming was found in all cases for the full time period.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:ocean heat, sea level, climate change, physical meteorology and climatology, climate variability, heat budgets/fluxes, variability, oceanic variability, trends
Research Division:Earth Sciences
Research Group:Oceanography
Research Field:Physical oceanography
Objective Division:Environmental Policy, Climate Change and Natural Hazards
Objective Group:Understanding climate change
Objective Field:Climate change models
UTAS Author:Domingues, CM (Dr Catia Domingues)
UTAS Author:Bindoff, NL (Professor Nathan Bindoff)
ID Code:109843
Year Published:2016
Funding Support:Australian Research Council (FT130101532)
Web of Science® Times Cited:63
Deposited By:Oceans and Cryosphere
Deposited On:2016-07-04
Last Modified:2022-08-23
Downloads:190 View Download Statistics

Repository Staff Only: item control page