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Noise-Induced Transitions in a Simplified Model of the Thermohaline Circulation

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  • 1 KNMI, De Bilt, Netherlands
  • | 2 Max-Planck-Institut für Meteorologie, Hamburg, Germany
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Abstract

A simplified box ocean model for the North Atlantic is used to study the influence of multiplicative short-term climate variability on the stability and long-term dynamics of the North Atlantic thermohaline circulation. A timescale separation between fast temperature and slow salinity fluctuations is used to decouple the dynamical equations resulting in a multiplicative stochastic differential equation for salinity. As a result the qualitative behavior and the stability of the thermohaline circulation become a function of the noise level. This can be understood in terms of the concept of noise-induced transitions. Furthermore, the role of nonvanishing noise autocorrelation times on the dynamics of the thermohaline circulation is investigated. Red noise temperature forcing generates new equilibria, which do not have a deterministic counterpart. This study suggests that noise-induced transitions might have climate relevance.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Axel Timmermann, KNMI, Postbus 201, 3730 AE De Bilt, Netherlands.

Email: timmera@knmi.nl

Abstract

A simplified box ocean model for the North Atlantic is used to study the influence of multiplicative short-term climate variability on the stability and long-term dynamics of the North Atlantic thermohaline circulation. A timescale separation between fast temperature and slow salinity fluctuations is used to decouple the dynamical equations resulting in a multiplicative stochastic differential equation for salinity. As a result the qualitative behavior and the stability of the thermohaline circulation become a function of the noise level. This can be understood in terms of the concept of noise-induced transitions. Furthermore, the role of nonvanishing noise autocorrelation times on the dynamics of the thermohaline circulation is investigated. Red noise temperature forcing generates new equilibria, which do not have a deterministic counterpart. This study suggests that noise-induced transitions might have climate relevance.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Axel Timmermann, KNMI, Postbus 201, 3730 AE De Bilt, Netherlands.

Email: timmera@knmi.nl

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