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Regional Dynamic and Steric Sea Level Change in Response to the IPCC-A1B Scenario

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  • 1 Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, Hamburg, Germany
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Abstract

This paper analyzes regional sea level changes in a climate change simulation using the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology (MPI) coupled atmosphere–ocean general circulation model ECHAM5/MPI-OM. The climate change scenario builds on observed atmospheric greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations from 1860 to 2000, followed by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) A1B climate change scenario until 2100; from 2100 to 2199, GHG concentrations are fixed at the 2100 level. As compared with the unperturbed control climate, global sea level rises 0.26 m by 2100, and 0.56 m by 2199 through steric expansion; eustatic changes are not included in this simulation. The model’s sea level evolves substantially differently among ocean basins. Sea level rise is strongest in the Arctic Ocean, from enhanced freshwater input from precipitation and continental runoff, and weakest in the Southern Ocean, because of compensation of steric changes through dynamic sea surface height (SSH) adjustments. In the North Atlantic Ocean (NA), a complex tripole SSH pattern across the subtropical to subpolar gyre front evolves, which is consistent with a northward shift of the NA current. On interannual to decadal time scales, the SSH difference between Bermuda and the Labrador Sea correlates highly with the combined baroclinic gyre transport in the NA but only weakly with the meridional overturning circulation (MOC) and, thus, does not allow for estimates of the MOC on these time scales. Bottom pressure increases over shelf areas by up to 0.45 m (water column equivalent) and decreases over the Atlantic section in the Southern Ocean by up to 0.20 m. The separate evaluation of thermosteric and halosteric sea level changes shows that thermosteric anomalies are positive over most of the World Ocean. Because of increased atmospheric moisture transport from low to high latitudes, halosteric anomalies are negative in the subtropical NA and partly compensate thermosteric anomalies, but are positive in the Arctic Ocean and add to thermosteric anomalies. The vertical distribution of thermosteric and halosteric anomalies is highly nonuniform among ocean basins, reaching deeper than 3000 m in the Southern Ocean, down to 2200 m in the North Atlantic, and only to depths of 500 m in the Pacific Ocean by the end of the twenty-first century.

Corresponding author address: Felix W. Landerer, Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, Bundesstr.53, D-20146 Hamburg, Germany. Email: felix.landerer@zmaw.de

This article included in the In Honor of Carl Wunsch special collection.

Abstract

This paper analyzes regional sea level changes in a climate change simulation using the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology (MPI) coupled atmosphere–ocean general circulation model ECHAM5/MPI-OM. The climate change scenario builds on observed atmospheric greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations from 1860 to 2000, followed by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) A1B climate change scenario until 2100; from 2100 to 2199, GHG concentrations are fixed at the 2100 level. As compared with the unperturbed control climate, global sea level rises 0.26 m by 2100, and 0.56 m by 2199 through steric expansion; eustatic changes are not included in this simulation. The model’s sea level evolves substantially differently among ocean basins. Sea level rise is strongest in the Arctic Ocean, from enhanced freshwater input from precipitation and continental runoff, and weakest in the Southern Ocean, because of compensation of steric changes through dynamic sea surface height (SSH) adjustments. In the North Atlantic Ocean (NA), a complex tripole SSH pattern across the subtropical to subpolar gyre front evolves, which is consistent with a northward shift of the NA current. On interannual to decadal time scales, the SSH difference between Bermuda and the Labrador Sea correlates highly with the combined baroclinic gyre transport in the NA but only weakly with the meridional overturning circulation (MOC) and, thus, does not allow for estimates of the MOC on these time scales. Bottom pressure increases over shelf areas by up to 0.45 m (water column equivalent) and decreases over the Atlantic section in the Southern Ocean by up to 0.20 m. The separate evaluation of thermosteric and halosteric sea level changes shows that thermosteric anomalies are positive over most of the World Ocean. Because of increased atmospheric moisture transport from low to high latitudes, halosteric anomalies are negative in the subtropical NA and partly compensate thermosteric anomalies, but are positive in the Arctic Ocean and add to thermosteric anomalies. The vertical distribution of thermosteric and halosteric anomalies is highly nonuniform among ocean basins, reaching deeper than 3000 m in the Southern Ocean, down to 2200 m in the North Atlantic, and only to depths of 500 m in the Pacific Ocean by the end of the twenty-first century.

Corresponding author address: Felix W. Landerer, Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, Bundesstr.53, D-20146 Hamburg, Germany. Email: felix.landerer@zmaw.de

This article included in the In Honor of Carl Wunsch special collection.

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