The Spread of Ocean Heat Uptake Efficiency Traced to Ocean Salinity

Maofeng Liu, Brian J. Soden, Gabriel A. Vecchi, Chenggong Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Ocean heat uptake (OHU) plays an important role in determining the rate of surface warming under CO2 forcing. We examined the transient response to CO2 forcing in a set of 30 climate models from Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 6 (CMIP6) and found that the intermodel spread in OHU efficiency largely depends on the base-state ocean stratification, especially in the Southern Ocean. This dependence is primarily traced to ocean salinity rather than ocean temperature. Models with weaker ocean stratification primarily due to higher upper-ocean salinity tend to sequester heat into the deeper ocean, leading to a lower rate of surface warming, a primary reason for higher OHU efficiency; the stratification impact on total OHU is secondary. We applied the relationship between salinity and OHU efficiency for an emergent constraint on OHU efficiency, suggesting an OHU efficiency higher than the CMIP6 multimodel average and arguing against models with extremely low efficiency.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2022GL100171
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 28 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


  • emergent constraint
  • global climate models
  • ocean heat uptake efficiency
  • ocean salinity
  • ocean stratification


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