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Pacific Sea Level Rise Pattern and Global Surface Temperature Variability
Source: LASG    Viewed:  time(s)    Time: 2016-9-26
 Dr. Jianjun Yin
Department of Geosciences, University of Arizona, USA
14:00 pm,26 September,2016
No.303,Keyan Building


The Pacific Ocean has a significant influence on global mean surface temperature (GST), as recently demonstrated during the 2015/16 El Niño. In this talk, I will show a new way to quantify the role of the Pacific Ocean in GST variability using sea level information rather than traditional sea surface temperature data. Due to the fact that water expands when heated, sea level can be used as a measure of heat stored throughout the entire ocean column, not just at the surface. Sea level in the western tropical Pacific near Asia is tilted higher than the eastern Pacific off the coast of the Americas, due to trade winds and the western Pacific warm pool. However, the degree of this tilt changes over time, much like a seesaw. During an El Niño event, the west-to-east sea level tilt in the Pacific becomes smaller than usual, suggesting a release of heat from the deeper ocean and thereby increased GST. Using a set of state-of-the-art climate models, we systematically quantified this relationship between GST and Pacific sea level tilt. With this relationship, we focused on notable behaviors of GST during the past two decades. Based on sea level observations by satellites, we found that the Pacific Ocean contributed 0.29°±0.10°C to the 1997/98 GST jump. In contrast, the fast sea level rise in the western tropical Pacific from 1998 to 2012 suggests 0.13°–0.16°C of suppressed global surface warming. Based on near-real time sea level data for 2015, we predict a 0.21° ± 0.07°C annual mean GST increase associated with the 2015/16 El Niño event.

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