Formal detection and attribution studies have used observations and climate models to identify an anthropogenic warming signature in the upper (0–700 m) ocean. Recently, as a result of the so-called surface warming hiatus, there has been considerable interest in global ocean heat content (OHC) changes in the deeper ocean, including natural and anthropogenically forced changes identified in observational, modelling and data re-analysis studies.

The global ocean stores more than 90% of the heat associated with observed greenhouse-gas-attributed global warming. Using satellite altimetry observations and a large suite of climate models, we conclude that observed estimates of 0–700 dbar global ocean warming since 1970 are likely biased low. This underestimation is attributed to poor sampling of the Southern Hemisphere, and limitations of the analysis methods that conservatively estimate temperature changes in data-sparse regions.