The ocean's role in climate
Schmitt, Raymond W.
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Oceanographers have arrived late to the climate problem. Continuous climate records longer than a century or more are available for many cities, but are unheard of for the ocean. In the last 30 years, there has been great progress in expanding ocean observations to the point that we can start to address climate problems, but the shortness of the records is a constant impediment to progress. Of course, we are also now in an era when the climate problem looms larger than ever. Once the unhurried domain of state climatologists, the rapid buildup of atmospheric CO2 in the industrial era has turned climate into one of the most critical of all research topics. While we remain limited by short time series, the basics physics of the climate system assures a significant place for the ocean because it dominates the planetary reservoirs of heat, water, and CO2. This article summarizes the ocean’s essential contributions to the maintenance of Earth’s climate and asserts the need for sustaining a high quality ocean observing system for the long durations necessary to observe and understand climate.
Author Posting. © The Oceanography Society, 2018. This article is posted here by permission of The Oceanography Society for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Schmitt, R.W. The ocean’s role in climate. Oceanography 31(2): (2018): 32–40, doi:10.5670/oceanog.2018.225.