12 Jul 2021

12 Jul 2021

Review status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal ESSD.

Monitoring the ocean heat content change and the Earth energy imbalance from space altimetry and space gravimetry

Florence Marti1, Alejandro Blazquez2, Benoit Meyssignac2, Michaël Ablain1, Anne Barnoud1, Robin Fraudeau1, Rémi Jugier1, Jonathan Chenal2,3, Gilles Larnicol1, Julia Pfeffer1, Marco Restano4, and Jérôme Benveniste5 Florence Marti et al.
  • 1MAGELLIUM, Ramonville Saint-Agne, 31520, France
  • 2LEGOS, Université de Toulouse, CNES, CNRS, UPS, IRD, 31000, Toulouse, France
  • 3Ecole nationale des ponts et chaussées, Marne-la-Vallée, 77420, France
  • 4SERCO-ESRIN, Frascati, 44, Italy
  • 5ESA/ESRIN, Frascati, 44, Italy

Abstract. The Earth energy imbalance (EEI) at the top of the atmosphere is responsible for the accumulation of heat in the climate system. Monitoring the EEI is therefore necessary to better understand the Earth’s warming climate. Measuring the EEI is challenging as it is a globally integrated variable whose variations are small (0.5–1 W m−2) compared to the amount of energy entering and leaving the climate system (~ 340 W m−2). Since the ocean absorbs more than 90 % of the excess energy stored by the Earth system, estimating the ocean heat content (OHC) provides an accurate proxy of the EEI. This study provides a space geodetic estimation of the OHC changes at global and regional scales based on the combination of space altimetry and space gravimetry measurements. From this estimate, the global variations in the EEI are derived with realistic estimates of its uncertainty. The mean EEI value is estimated at +0.74 ± 0.22 W m−2 (90 % confidence level) between August 2002 and August 2016. Comparisons against independent estimates based on Argo data and on CERES measurements show good agreement within the error bars of the global mean and the time variations in EEI. Further improvements are needed to reduce uncertainties and to improve the time series especially at interannual and smaller time scales. The space geodetic OHC-EEI product is freely available at

Florence Marti et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on essd-2021-220', Anonymous Referee #1, 11 Aug 2021
  • RC2: 'Comment on essd-2021-220', Anonymous Referee #2, 18 Aug 2021

Florence Marti et al.

Data sets

Ocean heat content and Earth energy imbalance: climate indicators from space Florence Marti, Alejandro Blazquez, Benoit Meyssignac, Michaël Ablain, Anne Barnoud, Robin Fraudeau, Rémi Jugier, Jonathan Chenal, Gilles Larnicol, Julia Pfeffer, Marco Restano, Jérôme Benveniste

Florence Marti et al.


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Short summary
The Earth energy imbalance at the top of the atmosphere due to the increase of greenhouse gases and aerosols concentrations is responsible for the accumulation of energy in the climate system. With its high thermal inertia, the ocean accumulates most of this energy excess in the form of heat. The estimation of the global ocean heat content through space geodetic observations allows monitoring the energy imbalance with realistic uncertainties to better understand the Earth’s warming climate.