Equilibrium thermal response timescale of global oceans
Article first published online: 29 JUL 2011
Copyright 2011 by the American Geophysical Union.
Geophysical Research Letters
Volume 38, Issue 14, July 2011
How to Cite
2011), Equilibrium thermal response timescale of global oceans, Geophys. Res. Lett., 38, L14711, doi:10.1029/2011GL048076., and (
- Issue published online: 29 JUL 2011
- Article first published online: 29 JUL 2011
- Manuscript Accepted: 16 JUN 2011
- Manuscript Revised: 14 JUN 2011
- Manuscript Received: 8 MAY 2011
- response timescale
 The equilibrium response timescale of global oceans is estimated in a fully coupled climate model. In general, the equilibrium timescale increases with depth, except in the polar region. The timescale is approximately 200 years for the ocean for depths above 1 km, and it increases to 1500 years at a depth of 3 km. A layer with a rapid timescale change, referred to as a temporacline, is located at a depth of 1.5–2 km, which is analogous to the permanent thermocline in the ocean. The equilibrium timescale varies with the sign of the change in radiative forcing. The ocean response to surface cooling could be twice as fast as the surface warming because of enhanced vertical mixing, convection and overturning circulation. However, this phenomenon only occurs below the Atlantic temporacline. For the Atlantic upper ocean, the timescale is longer in the cooling case because of the readjustment of the upper ocean to the enhanced Atlantic overturning circulation. In the Pacific, the timescale change in the warming and cooling cases is not as significant as in the Atlantic because of the lack of deep convection.