Meridional Overturning Circulation in a multi-basin model. Part II: Sensitivity to diffusivity and wind in warm and cool climates

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  • 1 University of Exeter, United Kingdom
  • 2 University of Exeter, United Kingdom
  • 3 University of Exeter, United Kingdom
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Abstract

The response of the meridional overturning circulation (MOC) to changes in Southern Ocean (SO) zonal wind forcing and Pacific basin vertical diffusivity is investigated under varying buoyancy forcings, corresponding to ‘warm’, ‘present-day’ and ‘cold’ states, in a two-basin general circulation model connected by a southern circumpolar channel. We find that the Atlantic MOC (AMOC) strengthens with increased SO wind stress or diffusivity in the model Pacific, under all buoyancy forcings. The sensitivity of the AMOC to wind stress increases as the buoyancy forcing is varied from a warm to a present-day or cold state, whereas it is most sensitive to the Pacific diffusivity in a present-day or warm state. Similarly, the AMOC is more sensitive to buoyancy forcing over the Southern Ocean under reduced wind stress or enhanced Pacific diffusivity. These results arise because of the increased importance of the Pacific pathway in the warmer climates, giving an increased linkage between the basins and so the opportunity for the diffusivity in the Pacific to affect the overturning in the Atlantic. In cooler states, such as in glacial climates, the two basins are largely decoupled and the wind strength over the SO is the primary determinant of the AMOC strength. Both wind- and diffusively-driven upwelling sustain the AMOC in the warmer (present-day) state. Changes in SO wind stress alone do not shoal the AMOC to resemble that observed at the last glacial maximum; changes in the buoyancy forcing are also needed to decouple the two basins.

Corresponding author address: Jonathan Baker, College of Life and Environmental Science, University of Exeter, Exeter, UK. EX4 4QE. E-mail: jb812@exeter.ac.uk

Abstract

The response of the meridional overturning circulation (MOC) to changes in Southern Ocean (SO) zonal wind forcing and Pacific basin vertical diffusivity is investigated under varying buoyancy forcings, corresponding to ‘warm’, ‘present-day’ and ‘cold’ states, in a two-basin general circulation model connected by a southern circumpolar channel. We find that the Atlantic MOC (AMOC) strengthens with increased SO wind stress or diffusivity in the model Pacific, under all buoyancy forcings. The sensitivity of the AMOC to wind stress increases as the buoyancy forcing is varied from a warm to a present-day or cold state, whereas it is most sensitive to the Pacific diffusivity in a present-day or warm state. Similarly, the AMOC is more sensitive to buoyancy forcing over the Southern Ocean under reduced wind stress or enhanced Pacific diffusivity. These results arise because of the increased importance of the Pacific pathway in the warmer climates, giving an increased linkage between the basins and so the opportunity for the diffusivity in the Pacific to affect the overturning in the Atlantic. In cooler states, such as in glacial climates, the two basins are largely decoupled and the wind strength over the SO is the primary determinant of the AMOC strength. Both wind- and diffusively-driven upwelling sustain the AMOC in the warmer (present-day) state. Changes in SO wind stress alone do not shoal the AMOC to resemble that observed at the last glacial maximum; changes in the buoyancy forcing are also needed to decouple the two basins.

Corresponding author address: Jonathan Baker, College of Life and Environmental Science, University of Exeter, Exeter, UK. EX4 4QE. E-mail: jb812@exeter.ac.uk
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