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Seismic ocean thermometry

Wu, Wenbo and Zhan, Zhongwen and Peng, Shirui and Ni, Sidao and Callies, Jörn (2020) Seismic ocean thermometry. Science, 369 (6510). pp. 1510-1515. ISSN 0036-8075. doi:10.1126/science.abb9519.

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More than 90% of the energy trapped on Earth by increasingly abundant greenhouse gases is absorbed by the ocean. Monitoring the resulting ocean warming remains a challenging sampling problem. To complement existing point measurements, we introduce a method that infers basin-scale deep-ocean temperature changes from the travel times of sound waves that are generated by repeating earthquakes. A first implementation of this seismic ocean thermometry constrains temperature anomalies averaged across a 3000-kilometer-long section in the equatorial East Indian Ocean with a standard error of 0.0060 kelvin. Between 2005 and 2016, we find temperature fluctuations on time scales of 12 months, 6 months, and ~10 days, and we infer a decadal warming trend that substantially exceeds previous estimates.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription Materials
Wu, Wenbo0000-0002-6249-8065
Zhan, Zhongwen0000-0002-5586-2607
Peng, Shirui0000-0002-4616-4604
Ni, Sidao0000-0003-2988-4850
Callies, Jörn0000-0002-6815-1230
Additional Information:© 2020 American Association for the Advancement of Science. This is an article distributed under the terms of the Science Journals Default License. Received 28 March 2020; accepted 31 July 2020. This work was supported in part by the Caltech Seismological Laboratory Director’s Postdoctoral Scholar fellowship awarded to W.W. and by the Resnick Sustainability Institute. S.N. was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (grant 41590854) and the Chinese Academy of Sciences (grant XDB18000000). Author contributions: W.W. conceived the original idea. Z.Z. and J.C. supervised the study. W.W. processed the seismic data and conducted the seismic modeling. S.P. and J.C. processed the oceanographic data, and J.C. performed the data inversion. The paper was written by W.W. and J.C. with input from Z.Z. and S.N. All authors discussed the results and commented on the manuscript. The authors declare no competing interests. Data and materials availability: The seismic data are archived at the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS) and are accessible through the IRIS Data Management Center ( ECCO data are available from NASA’s Data Portal ( Argo data are collected and made freely available by the International Argo Program and the national programs that contribute to it. The float data are available from the Global Data Assembly Centre (41). The figures were prepared using the Generic Mapping Tools (, Obspy (, Cartopy (, and Matplotlib (
Group:Seismological Laboratory, Resnick Sustainability Institute
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Caltech Seismological LaboratoryUNSPECIFIED
Resnick Sustainability InstituteUNSPECIFIED
National Natural Science Foundation of China41590854
Chinese Academy of SciencesXDB18000000
Issue or Number:6510
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20200918-085145090
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Seismic ocean thermometry. Wenbo Wu, Zhongwen Zhan, Shirui Peng, Sidao Ni, Jörn Callies. Science 18 Sep 2020: 1510-1515; DOI: 10.1126/SCIENCE.ABB9519
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:105445
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:18 Sep 2020 16:01
Last Modified:16 Nov 2021 18:43

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