Deep-reaching acceleration of global mean ocean circulation over the past two decades
February 13,2020

Published in Science Advances, 5 February 2020

Ocean circulation redistributes Earth’s energy and water masses and influences global climate Under historical greenhouse warming, regional ocean currents show diverse tendencies, but whether there is an emerging trend of the global mean ocean circulation system is not yet clear. Here, we show a statistically significant increasing trend in the globally integrated oceanic kinetic energy since the early 1990s, indicating a substantial acceleration of global mean ocean circulation. The increasing trend in kinetic energy is particularly prominent in the global tropical oceans, reaching depths of thousands of meters. The deep-reaching acceleration of the ocean circulation is mainly induced by a planetary intensification of surface winds since the early 1990s. Although possibly influenced by wind changes associated with the onset of a negative Pacific decadal oscillation since the late 1990s, the recent acceleration is far larger than that associated with natural variability, suggesting that it is principally part of a long-term trend.

Hu, S.*, J. Sprintall, C. Guan, M. J. McPhaden, F. Wang*, D. Hu, and W. Cai, 2019: Deep-reaching acceleration of global mean ocean circulation over the past two decades.Science Advances, 6(6), eaax7727, doi: 10.1126/sciadv.aax7727.

The results attracted extensive attentioninternationally once on the day they were published online. The news column of Science threw light on this study in two continuous articles. So far 29 international media from China, US, UK, France,Germany and Japan have reported the research results and their significance. And this study has received high evaluation from many famous scholars in this field.

As The Scientist reported, “This is quite an exciting paper,” says Joellen Russell, a geoscientist at the University of Arizona who was not involved in the study. “I think theresults are robust, I think they’re important, and I think they are a little shocking,” she says.

The Science news entitled "Global warming is speeding up Earth's massive ocean currents" says that Susan Wijffels, an oceanographer at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution remarks, “It’s going to stimulate a lot of other work.”

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