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An Indicator of the Multiple Equilibria Regime of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation

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  • 1 Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Utrecht University, Utrecht, Netherlands
  • 2 Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, De Bilt, Netherlands
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Abstract

Recent model results have suggested that there may be a scalar indicator Σ monitoring whether the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (MOC) is in a multiple equilibrium regime. The quantity Σ is based on the net freshwater transport by the MOC into the Atlantic basin. It changes sign as soon as the steady Atlantic MOC enters the multiple equilibrium regime because of an increased freshwater input in the northern North Atlantic. This paper addresses the issue of why the sign of Σ is such a good indicator for the multiple equilibrium regime. Changes in the Atlantic freshwater budget over a complete bifurcation diagram and in finite amplitude perturbation experiments are analyzed in a global ocean circulation model. The authors show that the net anomalous freshwater transport into or out of the Atlantic, resulting from the interactions of the velocity perturbations and salinity background field, is coupled to the background (steady state) state freshwater budget and hence to Σ. The sign of Σ precisely shows whether this net anomalous freshwater transport is stabilizing or destabilizing the MOC. Therefore, it can indicate whether the MOC is in a single or multiple equilibrium regime.

Corresponding author address: Henk A. Dijkstra, Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research, Dept. of Physics and Astronomy, Utrecht University, Princetonplein 5, 3584 Utrecht, Netherlands. Email: h.a.dijkstra@uu.nl

Abstract

Recent model results have suggested that there may be a scalar indicator Σ monitoring whether the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (MOC) is in a multiple equilibrium regime. The quantity Σ is based on the net freshwater transport by the MOC into the Atlantic basin. It changes sign as soon as the steady Atlantic MOC enters the multiple equilibrium regime because of an increased freshwater input in the northern North Atlantic. This paper addresses the issue of why the sign of Σ is such a good indicator for the multiple equilibrium regime. Changes in the Atlantic freshwater budget over a complete bifurcation diagram and in finite amplitude perturbation experiments are analyzed in a global ocean circulation model. The authors show that the net anomalous freshwater transport into or out of the Atlantic, resulting from the interactions of the velocity perturbations and salinity background field, is coupled to the background (steady state) state freshwater budget and hence to Σ. The sign of Σ precisely shows whether this net anomalous freshwater transport is stabilizing or destabilizing the MOC. Therefore, it can indicate whether the MOC is in a single or multiple equilibrium regime.

Corresponding author address: Henk A. Dijkstra, Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research, Dept. of Physics and Astronomy, Utrecht University, Princetonplein 5, 3584 Utrecht, Netherlands. Email: h.a.dijkstra@uu.nl

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