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Diagnosing Natural Variability of North Atlantic Water Masses in HadCM3

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  • 1 Environmental Systems Science Centre, The University of Reading, Reading, United Kingdom
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Abstract

A study of thermally driven water mass transformations over 100 yr in the ocean component of the Third Hadley Centre Coupled Ocean–Atmosphere General Circulation Model (HadCM3) is presented. The processes of surface-forced transformations, subduction and mixing, both above and below the winter mixed layer base, are quantified. Subtropical Mode Waters are formed by surface heat fluxes and subducted at more or less the same rate. However, Labrador Seawater and Nordic Seawater classes (the other main subduction classes) are primarily formed by mixing within the mixed layer with very little formation directly from surface heat fluxes. The Subpolar Mode Water classes are dominated by net obduction of water back into the mixed layer from below.

Subtropical Mode Water (18°C) variability shows a cycle of formation by surface fluxes, subduction ∼2 yr later, followed by mixing with warmer waters below the winter mixed layer base during the next 3 yr, and finally obduction back into the mixed layer at 21°C, ∼5 yr after the original formation. Surface transformation of Subpolar Mode Waters, ∼12°C, are led by surface transformations of warmer waters by up to 5 yr as water is transferred from the subtropical gyre. They are also led by obduction variability from below the mixed layer, by ∼2 yr. The variability of obduction in Subpolar Mode Waters also appears to be preceded, by 3–5 yr, by variability in subduction of Labrador Sea Waters at ∼6°C. This supports a mechanism in which southward-propagating Labrador seawater anomalies below the subpolar gyre can influence the upper water circulation and obduction into the mixed layer.

Corresponding author address: Keith Haines, Environmental Systems Science Centre, The University of Reading, P.O. Box 238, Reading RG6 6AL, United Kingdom. Email: kh@mail.nerc-essc.ac.uk

Abstract

A study of thermally driven water mass transformations over 100 yr in the ocean component of the Third Hadley Centre Coupled Ocean–Atmosphere General Circulation Model (HadCM3) is presented. The processes of surface-forced transformations, subduction and mixing, both above and below the winter mixed layer base, are quantified. Subtropical Mode Waters are formed by surface heat fluxes and subducted at more or less the same rate. However, Labrador Seawater and Nordic Seawater classes (the other main subduction classes) are primarily formed by mixing within the mixed layer with very little formation directly from surface heat fluxes. The Subpolar Mode Water classes are dominated by net obduction of water back into the mixed layer from below.

Subtropical Mode Water (18°C) variability shows a cycle of formation by surface fluxes, subduction ∼2 yr later, followed by mixing with warmer waters below the winter mixed layer base during the next 3 yr, and finally obduction back into the mixed layer at 21°C, ∼5 yr after the original formation. Surface transformation of Subpolar Mode Waters, ∼12°C, are led by surface transformations of warmer waters by up to 5 yr as water is transferred from the subtropical gyre. They are also led by obduction variability from below the mixed layer, by ∼2 yr. The variability of obduction in Subpolar Mode Waters also appears to be preceded, by 3–5 yr, by variability in subduction of Labrador Sea Waters at ∼6°C. This supports a mechanism in which southward-propagating Labrador seawater anomalies below the subpolar gyre can influence the upper water circulation and obduction into the mixed layer.

Corresponding author address: Keith Haines, Environmental Systems Science Centre, The University of Reading, P.O. Box 238, Reading RG6 6AL, United Kingdom. Email: kh@mail.nerc-essc.ac.uk

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