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Influence of the Meridional Overturning Circulation on Tropical Atlantic Climate and Variability

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  • 1 Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI), De Bilt, Netherlands
  • 2 Oceanographic Institute (IOUSP), University of São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil
  • 3 Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI), De Bilt, Netherlands
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Abstract

The influence of the meridional overturning circulation on tropical Atlantic climate and variability has been investigated using the atmosphere–ocean coupled model Speedy-MICOM (Miami Isopycnic Coordinate Ocean Model). In the ocean model MICOM the strength of the meridional overturning cell can be regulated by specifying the lateral boundary conditions. In case of a collapse of the basinwide meridional overturning cell the SST response in the Atlantic is characterized by a dipole with a cooling in the North Atlantic and a warming in the tropical and South Atlantic. The cooling in the North Atlantic is due to the decrease in the strength of the western boundary currents, which reduces the northward advection of heat. The warming in the tropical Atlantic is caused by a reduced ventilation of water originating from the South Atlantic. This effect is most prominent in the eastern tropical Atlantic during boreal summer when the mixed layer attains its minimum depth. As a consequence the seasonal cycle as well as the interannual variability in SST is reduced. The characteristics of the cold tongue mode are changed: the variability in the eastern equatorial region is strongly reduced and the largest variability is now in the Benguela, Angola region. Because of the deepening of the equatorial thermocline, variations in the thermocline depth in the eastern tropical Atlantic no longer significantly affect the mixed layer temperature. The gradient mode remains unaltered. The warming of the tropical Atlantic enhances and shifts the Hadley circulation. Together with the cooling in the North Atlantic, this increases the strength of the subtropical jet and the baroclinicity over the North Atlantic.

Corresponding author address: Reindert Haarsma, Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI), P.O. Box 201, 3730 AE De Bilt, Netherlands. Email: haarsma@knmi.nl

Abstract

The influence of the meridional overturning circulation on tropical Atlantic climate and variability has been investigated using the atmosphere–ocean coupled model Speedy-MICOM (Miami Isopycnic Coordinate Ocean Model). In the ocean model MICOM the strength of the meridional overturning cell can be regulated by specifying the lateral boundary conditions. In case of a collapse of the basinwide meridional overturning cell the SST response in the Atlantic is characterized by a dipole with a cooling in the North Atlantic and a warming in the tropical and South Atlantic. The cooling in the North Atlantic is due to the decrease in the strength of the western boundary currents, which reduces the northward advection of heat. The warming in the tropical Atlantic is caused by a reduced ventilation of water originating from the South Atlantic. This effect is most prominent in the eastern tropical Atlantic during boreal summer when the mixed layer attains its minimum depth. As a consequence the seasonal cycle as well as the interannual variability in SST is reduced. The characteristics of the cold tongue mode are changed: the variability in the eastern equatorial region is strongly reduced and the largest variability is now in the Benguela, Angola region. Because of the deepening of the equatorial thermocline, variations in the thermocline depth in the eastern tropical Atlantic no longer significantly affect the mixed layer temperature. The gradient mode remains unaltered. The warming of the tropical Atlantic enhances and shifts the Hadley circulation. Together with the cooling in the North Atlantic, this increases the strength of the subtropical jet and the baroclinicity over the North Atlantic.

Corresponding author address: Reindert Haarsma, Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI), P.O. Box 201, 3730 AE De Bilt, Netherlands. Email: haarsma@knmi.nl

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