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Impacts of Shortwave Penetration Depth on Large-Scale Ocean Circulation and Heat Transport

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  • 1 Atmospheric and Ocean Sciences Program, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey
  • | 2 NOAA Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, Princeton, New Jersey
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Abstract

The impact of changes in shortwave radiation penetration depth on the global ocean circulation and heat transport is studied using the GFDL Modular Ocean Model (MOM4) with two independent parameterizations that use ocean color to estimate the penetration depth of shortwave radiation. Ten to eighteen percent increases in the depth of 1% downwelling surface irradiance levels results in an increase in mixed layer depths of 3–20 m in the subtropical and tropical regions with no change at higher latitudes. While 1D models have predicted that sea surface temperatures at the equator would decrease with deeper penetration of solar irradiance, this study shows a warming, resulting in a 10% decrease in the required restoring heat flux needed to maintain climatological sea surface temperatures in the eastern equatorial Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The decrease in the restoring heat flux is attributed to a slowdown in heat transport (5%) from the Tropics and an increase in the temperature of submixed layer waters being transported into the equatorial regions. Calculations were made using a simple relationship between mixed layer depth and meridional mass transport. When compared with model diagnostics, these calculations suggest that the slowdown in heat transport is primarily due to off-equatorial increases in mixed layer depths. At higher latitudes (5°–40°), higher restoring heat fluxes are needed to maintain sea surface temperatures because of deeper mixed layers and an increase in storage of heat below the mixed layer. This study offers a way to evaluate the changes in irradiance penetration depths in coupled ocean–atmosphere GCMs and the potential effect that large-scale changes in chlorophyll a concentrations will have on ocean circulation.

Corresponding author address: Colm Sweeney, AOS Program, 302 Sayre Hall, P.O. Box CN710, Princeton, NJ 08544-0710. Email: csweeney@splash.princeton.edu

Abstract

The impact of changes in shortwave radiation penetration depth on the global ocean circulation and heat transport is studied using the GFDL Modular Ocean Model (MOM4) with two independent parameterizations that use ocean color to estimate the penetration depth of shortwave radiation. Ten to eighteen percent increases in the depth of 1% downwelling surface irradiance levels results in an increase in mixed layer depths of 3–20 m in the subtropical and tropical regions with no change at higher latitudes. While 1D models have predicted that sea surface temperatures at the equator would decrease with deeper penetration of solar irradiance, this study shows a warming, resulting in a 10% decrease in the required restoring heat flux needed to maintain climatological sea surface temperatures in the eastern equatorial Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The decrease in the restoring heat flux is attributed to a slowdown in heat transport (5%) from the Tropics and an increase in the temperature of submixed layer waters being transported into the equatorial regions. Calculations were made using a simple relationship between mixed layer depth and meridional mass transport. When compared with model diagnostics, these calculations suggest that the slowdown in heat transport is primarily due to off-equatorial increases in mixed layer depths. At higher latitudes (5°–40°), higher restoring heat fluxes are needed to maintain sea surface temperatures because of deeper mixed layers and an increase in storage of heat below the mixed layer. This study offers a way to evaluate the changes in irradiance penetration depths in coupled ocean–atmosphere GCMs and the potential effect that large-scale changes in chlorophyll a concentrations will have on ocean circulation.

Corresponding author address: Colm Sweeney, AOS Program, 302 Sayre Hall, P.O. Box CN710, Princeton, NJ 08544-0710. Email: csweeney@splash.princeton.edu

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