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Publication Date
11 January 2022

Another Record: Ocean Warming Continues through 2021 despite La Niña Conditions

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As mankind continues to emit greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and the climate continues to warm, our work documents the continued increase in ocean heat content, which sets a new record in 2021 despite the occurrence of a La Niña event. The spatial distribution of warming is however uneven and we use climate model large ensembles to explain and attribute the pattern of warming.


In demonstrating the continued increase in ocean heat content, we further highlight the unequivocal evidence for anthropogenic climate change and the usefulness of climate models, which predicted such an increase before being evident in observations. We then extend our analysis to interpret the pattern of warming and find strong correspondence between climate model single forcing patterns of change and observed patterns.


Ocean heat content is shown to set a new record in 2021, despite the presence of La Niña conditions, serving as important evidence for ongoing climate change and its risks, and validation of climate model projections. An understanding of the root drivers of the pattern of ocean heat uptake is also provided, with a strong agreement between models and observations further underscoring the fidelity and usefulness of climate models. 

Point of Contact
John Fasullo
National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR)
Funding Program Area(s)
Another Record: Ocean Warming Continues through 2021 despite La Niña Conditions
Cheng, Lijing, John Abraham, Kevin E. Trenberth, John Fasullo, Tim Boyer, Michael E. Mann, Jiang Zhu, et al. 2022. “Another Record: Ocean Warming Continues Through 2021 Despite La Niña Conditions”. Advances In Atmospheric Sciences 39 (3). Springer Science and Business Media LLC: 373-385. doi:10.1007/s00376-022-1461-3.