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Stochastic Forcing of Ocean Variability by the North Atlantic Oscillation

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  • 1 School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia
  • | 2 Ocean Sciences Department, University of California, Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, California
  • | 3 Colorado Research Associates, Northwest Research Associates, Boulder, Colorado
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Abstract

At middle and high latitudes, the magnitude of stochastic wind stress forcing of the ocean by atmospheric variability on synoptic time scales (i.e., “weather” related variability) is comparable to that of the seasonal cycle. Stochastic forcing may therefore have a significant influence on the ocean circulation, climate, and ocean predictability. Here, the influence of stochastic forcing associated with the North Atlantic Oscillation on the subtropical gyre circulation of the North Atlantic is explored in an eddy-permitting quasigeostrophic framework. For the North Atlantic winds used in this study, the root-mean-square of the annual average Ekman pumping velocity of the seasonal cycle between 35° and 52°N is 1.3 × 10−7 m s−1, while the wintertime standard deviation of the stochastic component of the North Atlantic Oscillation over the same latitude band is 2.2 × 10−7 m s−1. Significant stochastically induced variability in the ocean circulation occurs near the western boundary region and along the western margins of the abyssal plains associated with vortex stretching, energy release from the mean flow, and the generation of topographic Rossby waves. Variability arises from a combination of two effects, depending on the measure of variance used: growth of unstable modes of the underlying circulation and modal interference resulting from their nonnormal nature, which dominates during the first 10 days or so of perturbation growth. Near the surface, most of the variability is associated with large-scale changes in the barotropic circulation, although more than 20% of the energy and enstrophy variability is associated with small-scale baroclinic waves. In the deep ocean, much of the stochastically induced variability is apparently due to topographic Rossby wave activity along the continental rise and ocean ridges. Previous studies have demonstrated that rectification of topographic Rossby wave–induced circulations in the western North Atlantic may contribute to the western boundary current recirculation zones. The authors suggest that a source of topographic Rossby wave energy, significant enough to rectify the mean ocean circulation, may arise from stochastic forcing by large-scale atmospheric forcing, such as the North Atlantic Oscillation and other atmospheric teleconnection patterns.

Corresponding author address: Andrew M. Moore, Ocean Sciences Department, University of California, Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA 95061. Email: ammoore@ucsc.edu

Abstract

At middle and high latitudes, the magnitude of stochastic wind stress forcing of the ocean by atmospheric variability on synoptic time scales (i.e., “weather” related variability) is comparable to that of the seasonal cycle. Stochastic forcing may therefore have a significant influence on the ocean circulation, climate, and ocean predictability. Here, the influence of stochastic forcing associated with the North Atlantic Oscillation on the subtropical gyre circulation of the North Atlantic is explored in an eddy-permitting quasigeostrophic framework. For the North Atlantic winds used in this study, the root-mean-square of the annual average Ekman pumping velocity of the seasonal cycle between 35° and 52°N is 1.3 × 10−7 m s−1, while the wintertime standard deviation of the stochastic component of the North Atlantic Oscillation over the same latitude band is 2.2 × 10−7 m s−1. Significant stochastically induced variability in the ocean circulation occurs near the western boundary region and along the western margins of the abyssal plains associated with vortex stretching, energy release from the mean flow, and the generation of topographic Rossby waves. Variability arises from a combination of two effects, depending on the measure of variance used: growth of unstable modes of the underlying circulation and modal interference resulting from their nonnormal nature, which dominates during the first 10 days or so of perturbation growth. Near the surface, most of the variability is associated with large-scale changes in the barotropic circulation, although more than 20% of the energy and enstrophy variability is associated with small-scale baroclinic waves. In the deep ocean, much of the stochastically induced variability is apparently due to topographic Rossby wave activity along the continental rise and ocean ridges. Previous studies have demonstrated that rectification of topographic Rossby wave–induced circulations in the western North Atlantic may contribute to the western boundary current recirculation zones. The authors suggest that a source of topographic Rossby wave energy, significant enough to rectify the mean ocean circulation, may arise from stochastic forcing by large-scale atmospheric forcing, such as the North Atlantic Oscillation and other atmospheric teleconnection patterns.

Corresponding author address: Andrew M. Moore, Ocean Sciences Department, University of California, Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA 95061. Email: ammoore@ucsc.edu

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