North Atlantic Basin Heat Distribution
The amount of energy that the North Atlantic Basin accumulated over the last 50 years is equivalent to almost four trillion tons of TNT (1.610 1022 joules). This energy has not been distributed uniformly, as the tropical and subtropical regions of the North Atlantic have warmed the most, and the subpolar region has actually cooled. More energy has been gained than lost, however, and if this gain was averaged out across the entire North Atlantic Basin, each square meter would have experienced an increased heat flux of 0.42 Watts. This heat gain and change in heat distribution is related to the behavior of the North Atlantic Oscillation (or the cyclical change in the pressure difference between the Azores High and Icelandic Low), which transitioned from a predominately negative phase during the 1950s and 1960s to a predominately positive phase during the 1980s and 1990s. While multi-decadal heat fluxes from one ocean basin to another have been part of Earth’s climate for centuries, each of the world’s ocean basins have warmed over the last 50 years and the average temperature of the upper 3000 meters (which is about 70 percent of the world’s ocean water) rose by 0.07 degrees Fahrenheit. While this number may seem small, the same amount of energy it would take to raise the world’s ocean heat content by just 0.18 degrees would be enough to raise the average global atmospheric temperature to the boiling point of water, or 212 degrees!
Seasons: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter
(Source: Lozier, MS, et al. “The Spatial Pattern and Mechanisms of Heat-Content Change in the North Atlantic.” Science 319 (2008): 800-803 and Sources: Levitus, S. et al. “Warming of the world ocean, 1955-2003.” Geophysical Research Letters 32 (2005): L02604, doi: 10.1029/2004GL01592 and Miles, Edward. “Multiple Stresses, Thresholds, and Ocean Acidification.” Cannon House Office Building, Washington, DC. 20 September 2007.)