Oceanic Heat Content (OHC) is the measure of the integrated vertical temperature from the sea surface to the depth of the 26°C isotherm and computed from the altimeter-derived isotherm depths in the upper ocean relative to 20°C. Global 0.25 degree grids are generated daily for OHC, mixed layer depth and depths of 20°C and 26°C isotherms for 3 ocean basins: North Atlantic, North Pacific and South Pacific
Oceanic Heat Content (OHC) is the measure of the integrated vertical temperature from the sea surface to the depth of the 26°C isotherm and computed from the altimeter-derived isotherm depths in the upper ocean relative to 20°C. Satellite data inputs for sea surface temperature (SST) are from the NOAA GeoPolar Blended sea surface temperature and for the sea surface height anomaly (SSHA) are from at least 2 satellite altimetry missions. Global 0.25 degree grids are generated daily for OHC, mixed layer depth and depths of 20°C and 26°C isotherms for 3 ocean basins: North Atlantic, North Pacific and South Pacific.
More than 90% of the warming on the Earth over the past 50 years occurred in the Ocean (Shay L.K. 2019).The heat content of the ocean is the amount of heat energy (in joules) stored within a pre-defined volume of the upper ocean. To determine the heat content value in the ocean, NOAA/NESDIS produces a daily operational suite of satellite-derived Oceanic Heat Content (OHC) products for the North Atlantic, and the North and South Pacific basins. A suite of OHC products for the Indian Ocean are planned which will contribute significantly toward global coverage. OHC is an important climate change indicator and provides a high quality climatic data record. These suites of satellite-derived OHC products are validated against over one million in-situ measurements from multiple platforms to assess biases and uncertainties. The NOAA OHC product is shown to be the best product available for Hurricane Intensity Forecasting (Meyers et. al. 2015). Daily display of these OHC products provides valuable data to address key science questions related to climate such as: 1) the extent of warming (or cooling) in the warm pools of the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean basins; 2) thermodynamic processes in the equatorial wave guides associated with eastward propagating Kelvin Waves (ENSO); and linkages to the Madden-Julian Oscillation) across the tropics. Benefits for climate studies are a new understanding of the upper ocean thermodynamics, dynamics and air-sea processes relevant to tropical cyclone intensity forecasting, climatic variability (e.g., OHC anomalies over various time scales), fisheries, and coral reef bleaching. Figure 1 are the input fields (Altimetry and SST) used to generate the OHC Products.
Oceanic Heat Content (OHC) is defined as the measure of the integrated vertical temperature from the sea surface to the depth of the 26°C isotherm and computed from the altimeter-derived isotherm depths in the upper ocean relative to 20°C.
OHC values are estimated using four points: 1) the sea surface temperature obtained from NOAA/NESDIS Geo Polar SST Analysis; 2) the altimeter-estimates of the 20°C isotherm within a two-layer reduced gravity scheme; 3) the depth of the 26°C isotherm from a climatological relationship between the depths of the 20°C and 26°C isotherm; and 4) flexibility in estimating other isotherm depths (e.g., 25°C) then integrate. The full algorithm description is in the Algorithm Theoretical Basis Document (ATBD) (see documentation link).
Validation is accomplished by 1) calculating OHC from various in situ data sources (Argo, XBT, PIRATA/TAO, and Air-deployed probes); 2) then compared to the satellite-derived OHC grid point that is closest to that source in time and space; 3) regression analysis and root-mean-square deviation (RMSD) statistics are used to determine an agreement between the satellite and in situ data; and the accuracy has to be within 10 percent of the in situ data (kJ cm-2).
The addition of new satellite data requires new validation of the product.
Visual images of the OHC product suite are created on a daily basis.
Satellite derived Ocean Heat Content
Ocean Heat Content
Depth of 20° and 26° Isotherms
Ocean Heat Content
Ocean Mixed-Layer Depth
Sea Surface Height Anomalies
Sea Surface Temperature - Geostationary
Sea Surface Temperature - Polar-orbiting
24+ hours (Delayed)
|Spatial Resolution Groups||
|Spatial Resolution Details||
0.25 degree gridded
- Shay, L.K., G.J. Goni and P.G. Black.(2000) Effects of a warm oceanic feature on Hurricane Opal., Monthly Weather Review, 125(5), 1366-1383.
- De Maria, M. , M. Mainelli , L.K. Shay, J.A. Knaff, and J. Kaplan. (2005) Further improvements to the statistical hurricane intensity prediction scheme (SHIPS). Weather and Forecasting, 20(4), 531-543.
- Ali, M. M., P.S.V. Jagadeesh and Sarika Jain (2007a). Effects of Eddies on Bay of Bengal Cyclone Intensity, EOS, Vol. 88, p 93, 95.
- Halliwell GR, Shay LK, Jacob SD, Smedstad OM, Uhlhorn EW (2008) Improving Ocean Model Initialization for Coupled Tropical Cyclone Forecast Models Using GODAE Nowcasts. Monthly Weather Review, 136(7): 2576-2591.
- Mainelli M, De Maria M, Shay LK, Goni G (2008) Application of Oceanic Heat Content Estimation to Operational Forecasting of Recent Atlantic Category 5 Hurricanes. Weather and Forecasting 23(1): 3-16.
- Shay LK and Uhlhorn EW (2008) Loop Current Response to Hurricanes Isidore and Lili. Monthly Weather Review 136(9): 3248
- Jaimes, B. and L. K. Shay. (2009) Mixed layer cooling in mesoscale eddies during Katrina and Rita. Monthly Weather Review. 137(12), 4188-4207.
- Hallliwell, G., L. K. Shay, J. Brewster, and W. Teague, (2011) Evaluation and sensitivity analysis of an ocean model to hurricane Ivan in the northern Gulf of Mexico. Monthly Weather Review. 139(3), 921-945.
- Shay, L. K., and J. Brewster (2010). Eastern Pacific oceanic heat content estimation for hurricane forecasting. Monthly Weather Review . 138, 2110-2131.
- Shay, L. K., P. C. Meyers and J. K. Brewster, (2012) Development and analysis of the Systematically Merged Atlantic Region Temperature and Salinity (SMARTS) climatology for ocean heat content estimates. J. Atmos and Oceanogr. Tech. (In Preparation)
- Meyers, P. C., L. K. Shay, and J. K. Brewster, (2013) Development and analysis of the Systematically Merged Atlantic Region Temperature and Salinity (SMARTS) climatology for ocean heat content estimates. J. Atmos and Oceanogr. Tech. (Submitted)