Ocean ‘Stores’ Heat

ENVIRONMENT

Global warming is popularly viewed only as an atmospheric process. In fact, most heat uptake occurs in the ocean. How have subsurface ocean temperatures varied during past warm and cold intervals? How did scientists measure these climate changes? (National Geographic News)

Use our resources to better understand the far-reaching implications of global warming.

This graph compares changes (anomalies) in sea surface temperatures (top) and intermediate water temperatures (IWT, below) in Makassar Strait over the past 2,000 years. The orange line in the top graph is the Makassar Strait data. Other lines chart sea-surface temperature changes in the Northern Hemisphere. The blue line in the bottom graph is the Makassar Strait data, charted with a thick light-blue line representing this new data's standard deviation. Image courtesy Science magazine

This graph compares changes (anomalies) in sea surface temperatures (top) and intermediate water temperatures (IWT, below) in Makassar Strait over the past 2,000 years. The orange line in the top graph represents the Makassar Strait data. Other lines chart sea-surface temperature changes in the Northern Hemisphere. The blue line in the bottom graph represents the Makassar Strait data, charted with a thick light-blue line representing these new data’s standard deviation.
Image courtesy Science magazine

Discussion Ideas

  • According to the Nat Geo News article, ocean researchers studied two sites in Indonesia, “because [the sites] are seen as representative of places where Pacific Ocean waters have mixed for millennia.” The sites are the Makassar Strait and Flores Sea. Look at our MapMaker Interactive, focused on these marine areas. What other bodies of water do you think contributed to the marine mixing? (You may want to zoom out to get “the big picture”!)
    • The island nation of Indonesia is surrounded by seas and straits! According to the terrific Science article (read it!), the areas studied “serve as major conduits for exchange of water between the Pacific and Indian Oceans.” In particular, deep-ocean currents from the Celebes Sea, Molucca Sea, Banda Sea, Java Sea, Karamata Strait, even the South China Sea and Sulu Sea probably mixed in and around the Makassar Strait and Flores Sea.
  • Using our MapMaker Interactive, turn on the “Sea Surface Temperature” layer. (Hint: It’s in the “Physical Systems – Water” panel.) Is this the ocean-temperature data researchers were studying?
    • No! Our data layer is the sea surface temperature. Scientists in the article were studying subsurface temperature—water 920 meters (3,018 feet) beneath the surface.

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