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Ocean Surface Topography from Space
SCIENCE
Century-old science helps confirm global warming
May 24, 2013
Drawing of the HMS Challenger survey vessel preparing to measure ocean temperatures by lowering thermometers deep into the ocean on ropes in 1872.
Drawing of the HMS Challenger survey vessel preparing to measure ocean temperatures by lowering thermometers deep into the ocean on ropes in 1872.

Image credit: NOAA
A new NASA and university analysis of ocean data collected more than 135 years ago by the crew of the HMS Challenger oceanographic expedition provides further confirmation that human activities have warmed our planet over the past century.

Researchers from the University of Tasmania, Sandy Bay, Australia; and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., combined the ship's measurements of ocean temperatures with modern observations from the international Argo array of ocean profiling floats. They used both as inputs to state-of-the-art climate models, to get a picture of how the world's oceans have changed since the Challenger's voyage.

The Challenger expedition, from 1872 to 1876, was the world's first global scientific survey of life beneath the ocean surface. Along the way, scientists measured ocean temperatures, lowering thermometers hundreds of meters deep on ropes.

"The key to this research was to determine the range of uncertainty for the measurements taken by the crew of the Challenger," said Josh Willis, a JPL climate scientist and NASA project scientist for the upcoming U.S./European Jason-3 oceanography satellite, scheduled to launch in 2015. "After we had taken all these uncertainties into account, it became apparent that the rate of warming we saw across the oceans far exceeded the degree of uncertainty around the measurements. So, while the uncertainty was large, the warming signal detected was far greater."

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Link to the Publication: Detection of an observed 135 year ocean temperature change from limited data


Source: Jet Propulsion Laboratory

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