Time of emergence of trends in ocean biogeochemistry

Keller, K. M.; Joos, Fortunat; Raible, Christoph (2014). Time of emergence of trends in ocean biogeochemistry. Biogeosciences, 11(13), pp. 3647-3659. Copernicus Publications 10.5194/bg-11-3647-2014

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For the detection of climate change, not only the magnitude of a trend signal is of significance. An essential issue is the time period required by the trend to be detectable in the first place. An illustrative measure for this is time of emergence (ToE), that is, the point in time when a signal finally emerges from the background noise of natural variability. We investigate the ToE of trend signals in different biogeochemical and physical surface variables utilizing a multi-model ensemble comprising simulations of 17 Earth system models (ESMs). We find that signals in ocean biogeochemical variables emerge on much shorter timescales than the physical variable sea surface temperature (SST). The ToE patterns of pCO2 and pH are spatially very similar to DIC (dissolved inorganic carbon), yet the trends emerge much faster – after roughly 12 yr for the majority of the global ocean area, compared to between 10 and 30 yr for DIC. ToE of 45–90 yr are even larger for SST. In general, the background noise is of higher importance in determining ToE than the strength of the trend signal. In areas with high natural variability, even strong trends both in the physical climate and carbon cycle system are masked by variability over decadal timescales. In contrast to the trend, natural variability is affected by the seasonal cycle. This has important implications for observations, since it implies that intra-annual variability could question the representativeness of irregularly sampled seasonal measurements for the entire year and, thus, the interpretation of observed trends.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


10 Strategic Research Centers > Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research (OCCR)
08 Faculty of Science > Physics Institute > Climate and Environmental Physics
08 Faculty of Science > Physics Institute

UniBE Contributor:

Joos, Fortunat and Raible, Christoph


500 Science > 530 Physics
500 Science > 550 Earth sciences & geology




Copernicus Publications




Doris Rätz

Date Deposited:

07 Jan 2015 10:25

Last Modified:

12 Sep 2017 05:28

Publisher DOI:






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