Interdecadal Variations of the Thermohaline Circulation in a Coupled Ocean-Atmosphere Model

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  • 1 Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory/N0AA, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey
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Abstract

A fully coupled ocean-atmosphere model is shown to have irregular oscillations of the thermohaline circulation in the North Atlantic Ocean with a time scale of approximately 50 years. The irregular oscillation appears to be driven by density anomalies in the sinking region of the thermohaline circulation (approximately 52°N to 72°N) combined with much smaller density anomalies of opposite sign in the broad, rising region. The spatial pattern of see surface temperature anomalies associated with this irregular oscillation bears an encouraging resemblance to a pattern of observed interdecadal variability in the North Atlantic. The anomalies of sea surface temperature induce model surface air temperature anomalies over the northern North Atlantic, Arctic, and northwestern Europe.

Abstract

A fully coupled ocean-atmosphere model is shown to have irregular oscillations of the thermohaline circulation in the North Atlantic Ocean with a time scale of approximately 50 years. The irregular oscillation appears to be driven by density anomalies in the sinking region of the thermohaline circulation (approximately 52°N to 72°N) combined with much smaller density anomalies of opposite sign in the broad, rising region. The spatial pattern of see surface temperature anomalies associated with this irregular oscillation bears an encouraging resemblance to a pattern of observed interdecadal variability in the North Atlantic. The anomalies of sea surface temperature induce model surface air temperature anomalies over the northern North Atlantic, Arctic, and northwestern Europe.

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