Climate models without preindustrial volcanic forcing underestimate historical ocean thermal expansion

J. M. Gregory*, D. Bi, M. A. Collier, M. R. Dix, A. C. Hirst, A. Hu, M. Huber, R. Knutti, S. J. Marsland, M. Meinshausen, H. A. Rashid, L. D. Rotstayn, A. Schurer, J. A. Church

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Episodic explosive volcanic eruptions are a natural part of the climate system but are often omitted from atmosphere-ocean general circulation model (AOGCM) preindustrial spin-up and control experiments. This omission imposes a negative bias on ocean heat uptake in simulations of the historical period. In models of a range of complexity, we find that global-mean sea level rise due to thermal expansion during the last approximate to 150years is consequently underestimated by 530mm, which is a substantial proportion of the model mean of 50mm in Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 3 AOGCMs with anthropogenic forcing only, and is therefore important in accounting for 20th century sea level rise. We test and recommend a procedure for removing the bias.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1600-1604
Number of pages5
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 28 Apr 2013


  • volcano
  • ocean heat content
  • climate change
  • sea level rise

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