Variations of the Global Net Air–Sea Heat Flux during the “Hiatus” Period (2001–10) Academic Article uri icon


  • An assessment is made of the mean and variability of the net air–sea heat flux, Qnet, from four products (ECCO, OAFlux–CERES, ERA-Interim, and NCEP1) over the global ice-free ocean from January 2001 to December 2010. For the 10-yr “hiatus” period, all products agree on an overall net heat gain over the global ice-free ocean, but the magnitude varies from 1.7 to 9.5 W m?2. The differences among products are particularly large in the Southern Ocean, where they cannot even agree on whether the region gains or loses heat on the annual mean basis. Decadal trends of Qnet differ significantly between products. ECCO and OAFlux–CERES show almost no trend, whereas ERA-Interim suggests a downward trend and NCEP1 shows an upward trend. Therefore, numerical simulations utilizing different surface flux forcing products will likely produce diverged trends of the ocean heat content during this period. The downward trend in ERA-Interim started from 2006, driven by a peculiar pattern change in the tropical regions. ECCO, which used ERA-Interim as initial surface forcings and is constrained by ocean dynamics and ocean observations, corrected the pattern. Among the four products, ECCO and OAFlux–CERES show great similarities in the examined spatial and temporal patterns. Given that the two estimates were obtained using different approaches and based on largely independent observations, these similarities are encouraging and instructive. It is more likely that the global net air–sea heat flux does not change much during the so-called hiatus period.

publication date

  • May 2016