Principal investigator Thomas Frölicher (University of Bern) is a co-author on a new study recently published in the open access journal Biogeosciences, entitled “Is deoxygenation detectable before warming in the thermocline?” One of the most prominent indicators of anthropogenic climate change is ocean warming, followed by oxygen depletion. However, different regions of the global ocean thermocline (temperature gradient) indicate the opposite may be occurring, or that oxygen depletion may be detectable prior to warming. Therefore, the authors used “an ensemble of [nine] Earth system model simulations from the fifth phase of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project” to determine if oxygen depletion can be detected before human-induced ocean warming and find that is the case in approximately one third (~35%) of the global ocean thermocline. For more details, you can read the abstract below and access the publication through the link above.


Anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions cause ocean warming and oxygen depletion, with adverse impacts on marine organisms and ecosystems. Warming is one of the main indicators of anthropogenic climate change, but, in the thermocline, changes in oxygen and other biogeochemical tracers may emerge from the bounds of natural variability prior to warming. Here, we assess the time of emergence (ToE) of anthropogenic change in thermocline temperature and thermocline oxygen within an ensemble of Earth system model simulations from the fifth phase of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project. Changes in temperature typically emerge from internal variability prior to changes in oxygen. However, in about a third (35±11 %) of the global thermocline deoxygenation emerges prior to warming. In these regions, both reduced ventilation and reduced solubility add to the oxygen decline. In addition, reduced ventilation slows the propagation of anthropogenic warming from the surface into the ocean interior, further contributing to the delayed emergence of warming compared to deoxygenation. Magnitudes of internal variability and of anthropogenic change, which determine ToE, vary considerably among models leading to model–model differences in ToE. We introduce a new metric, relative ToE, to facilitate the multi-model assessment of ToE. This reduces the inter-model spread compared to the traditionally evaluated absolute ToE. Our results underline the importance of an ocean biogeochemical observing system and that the detection of anthropogenic impacts becomes more likely when using multi-tracer observations.


Hameau, A., Frölicher, T. L., Mignot, J., and Joos, F.: Is deoxygenation detectable before warming in the thermocline?, Biogeosciences, 17, 1877–1895,, 2020.

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