Climate Dynamics

, Volume 26, Issue 7, pp 801–821

The variance of sea surface temperature and projected changes with global warming


DOI: 10.1007/s00382-006-0117-9

Cite this article as:
Yu, B. & Boer, G.J. Clim Dyn (2006) 26: 801. doi:10.1007/s00382-006-0117-9


Based on the surface energy budget, the sea surface temperature (SST) variance is related to the product of three factors: the sum of the variances of surface radiative and turbulent energy fluxes and of ocean heat transport, an efficiency factor depending on the covariances among them, and a transfer factor involving the persistence of surface temperature via its lagged autocorrelation. These quantities are analyzed for current climate conditions based on results from the NCEP/NCAR reanalyses and a simulation with the CCCma coupled climate model. Potential changes with climate change are considered based on two quasi-equilibrium climate change integrations for which the forcing has been stabilized at years 2050 and 2100 values of the IS92a forcing scenario. The surface energy fluxes, which contribute to the variance of SST, are similar in the modelled and reanalyzed atmosphere but modelled temperature variance is conditioned on the thickness of the upper ocean model layer. Changes of SST variance with global warming show broad scale patterns with decreases in the tropical central-eastern Pacific and the northern extra-tropical Pacific, and increases in both the sub-tropical Pacific and mid-latitudes of the North Atlantic. The changes in SST variance are not associated only with changes in the variances of surface energy fluxes/transports but also with changes in the covariances among them and by changes in the temperature autocorrelation structure.

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Meteorological Service of CanadaCCRM, Climate Research BranchDownsviewCanada
  2. 2.Meteorological Service of Canada, Canadian Centre for Climate Modelling and AnalysisUniversity of VictoriaVictoriaCanada