Large-scale increases in upper-ocean temperatures are evident in observational records. Several studies have used well-established detection and attribution methods to demonstrate that the observed basin-scale temperature changes are consistent with model responses to anthropogenic forcing and inconsistent with model-based estimates of natural variability. These studies relied on a single observational data set and employed results from only one or two models.

Data from the satellite-based Special Sensor Microwave Imager (SSM/I) show that the total atmospheric moisture content over oceans has increased by 0.41 kg/m2 per decade since 1988. Results from current climate models indicate that water vapor increases of this magnitude cannot be explained by climate noise alone. In a formal detection and attribution analysis using the pooled results from 22 different climate models, the simulated “fingerprint” pattern of anthropogenically caused changes in water vapor is identifiable with high statistical confidence in the SSM/I data.