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Stephanie M. Downes
and
Andrew McC. Hogg

Abstract

Thirteen state-of-the-art climate models from phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) are used to evaluate the response of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) transport and Southern Ocean meridional overturning circulation to surface wind stress and buoyancy changes. Understanding how these flows—fundamental players in the global distribution of heat, gases, and nutrients—respond to climate change is currently a widely debated issue among oceanographers. Here, the authors analyze the circulation responses of these coarse-resolution coupled models to surface fluxes. Under a future CMIP5 climate pathway where the equivalent atmospheric CO2 reaches 1370 ppm by 2100, the models robustly project reduced Southern Ocean density in the upper 2000 m accompanied by strengthened stratification. Despite an overall increase in overlying wind stress (~20%), the projected ACC transports lie within ±15% of their historical state, and no significant relationship with changes in the magnitude or position of the wind stress is identified. The models indicate that a weakening of ACC transport at the end of the twenty-first century is correlated with a strong increase in the surface heat and freshwater fluxes in the ACC region. In contrast, the surface heat gain across the ACC region and the wind-driven surface transports are significantly correlated with an increased upper and decreased lower Eulerian-mean meridional overturning circulation. The change in the eddy-induced overturning in both the depth and density spaces is quantified, and it is found that the CMIP5 models project partial eddy compensation of the upper and lower overturning cells.

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Navid C. Constantinou
and
Andrew McC. Hogg

Abstract

Atmosphere and ocean are coupled via air–sea interactions. The atmospheric conditions fuel the ocean circulation and its variability, but the extent to which ocean processes can affect the atmosphere at decadal time scales remains unclear. In particular, such low-frequency variability is difficult to extract from the short observational record, meaning that climate models are the primary tools deployed to resolve this question. Here, we assess how the ocean’s intrinsic variability leads to patterns of upper-ocean heat content that vary at decadal time scales. These patterns have the potential to feed back on the atmosphere and thereby affect climate modes of variability, such as El Niño or the interdecadal Pacific oscillation. We use the output from a global ocean–sea ice circulation model at three different horizontal resolutions, each driven by the same atmospheric reanalysis. To disentangle the variability of the ocean’s direct response to atmospheric forcing from the variability due to intrinsic ocean dynamics, we compare model runs driven with interannually varying forcing (1958–2018) and model runs driven with repeat-year forcing. Models with coarse resolution that rely on eddy parameterizations show (i) significantly reduced variance of the upper-ocean heat content at decadal time scales and (ii) differences in the spatial patterns of low-frequency variability compared with higher-resolution models. Climate projections are typically done with general circulation models with coarse-resolution ocean components. Therefore, these biases affect our ability to predict decadal climate modes of variability and, in turn, hinder climate projections. Our results suggest that for improving climate projections, the community should move toward coupled climate models with higher oceanic resolution.

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Qian Li
,
Matthew H. England
, and
Andrew McC. Hogg

Abstract

The Southern Ocean has undergone significant climate-related changes over recent decades, including intensified westerly winds and increased radiative heating. The interplay between wind-driven cooling and radiative warming of the ocean is complex and remains unresolved. In this study, idealized wind and thermal perturbations are analyzed in a global ocean–sea ice model at two horizontal resolutions: nominally, 1° and 0.1°. The sea surface temperature (SST) response shows a clear transition from a wind-driven cooling phase to a warming phase. This warming transition is largely attributed to meridional and vertical Ekman heat advection, which are both sensitive to model resolution due to the model-dependent components of temperature gradients. At higher model resolution, due to a more accurate representation of near-surface vertical temperature inversion and upward Ekman heat advection around Antarctica, the anomalous SST warming is stronger and develops earlier. The mixed layer depth at midlatitudes initially increases due to a wind-driven increase in Ekman transport of cold dense surface water northward, but then decreases when the thermal forcing drives enhanced surface stratification; both responses are more sensitive at lower model resolution. With the wind intensification, the residual overturning circulation increases less in the 0.1° case because of the adequately resolved eddy compensation. Ocean heat subduction penetrates along more tilted isopycnals in the 1° case, but it orients to follow isopycnal layers in the 0.1° case. These findings have implications for understanding the ocean response to the combined effects of Southern Hemisphere westerly wind changes and anthropogenic warming.

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Ruth Moorman
,
Adele K. Morrison
, and
Andrew McC. Hogg

Abstract

The response of near-Antarctic waters to freshening by increased glacial melt is investigated using a high-resolution (0.1°) global ocean–sea ice model with realistic Antarctic water-mass properties. Two meltwater perturbation experiments are conducted where the ocean model is forced with constant elevated glacial melt rates of 1.5 and 2.8 times the control rate. Within 10 years of the onset of enhanced meltwater forcing, the generation of Antarctic Bottom Water from Dense Shelf Water ceases, as shelf waters become increasingly buoyant. Increased ocean stratification triggers subsurface warming in Dense Shelf Water source regions, suggesting a localized positive feedback to melt. In a parallel response, meltwater forcing enhances the subsurface lateral density gradients of the Antarctic Slope Front that modulate the transport of warm Circumpolar Deep Water across the continental slope toward ice shelf grounding lines. Consequently, coastal freshening acts to isolate the Antarctic Ice Sheet from open ocean heat, suggesting a cooling response to melt that counteracts warming associated with stratification. Further, these strengthening density gradients accelerate westward geostrophic currents along the coast and shelf break, homogenizing shelf waters and amplifying remote feedbacks. The net effect on the continental shelf is transient warming, followed by cooling in both experiments; however, this signal is the aggregate of a complex pattern of regional warming and cooling responses. These results suggest coastal freshening by meltwater may alter the thermal forcing of the Antarctic ice sheet in ways that both accelerate and inhibit ice shelf melt at different locations along the Antarctic coastline.

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Adele K. Morrison
,
Matthew H. England
, and
Andrew McC. Hogg

Abstract

This study explores how buoyancy-driven modulations in the abyssal overturning circulation affect Southern Ocean temperature and salinity in an eddy-permitting ocean model. Consistent with previous studies, the modeled surface ocean south of 50°S cools and freshens in response to enhanced surface freshwater fluxes. Paradoxically, upper-ocean cooling also occurs for small increases in the surface relaxation temperature. In both cases, the surface cooling and freshening trends are linked to reduced convection and a slowing of the abyssal overturning circulation, with associated changes in oceanic transport of heat and salt. For small perturbations, convective shutdown does not begin immediately, but instead develops via a slow feedback between the weakened overturning circulation and buoyancy anomalies. Two distinct phases of surface cooling are found: an initial smaller trend associated with the advective (overturning) adjustment of up to ~60 yr, followed by more rapid surface cooling during the convective shutdown period. The duration of the first advective phase decreases for larger forcing perturbations. As may be expected during the convective shutdown phase, the deep ocean warms and salinifies for both types of buoyancy perturbation. However, during the advective phase, the deep ocean freshens in response to freshwater perturbations but salinifies in the surface warming perturbations. The magnitudes of the modeled surface and abyssal trends during the advective phase are comparable to the recent observed multidecadal Southern Ocean temperature and salinity changes.

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Paige E. Martin
,
Brian K. Arbic
, and
Andrew McC. Hogg

Abstract

Ocean–atmosphere coupling modifies the variability of Earth’s climate over a wide range of time scales. However, attribution of the processes that generate this variability remains an outstanding problem. In this article, air–sea coupling is investigated in an eddy-resolving, medium-complexity, idealized ocean–atmosphere model. The model is run in three configurations: fully coupled, partially coupled (where the effect of the ocean geostrophic velocity on the sea surface temperature field is minimal), and atmosphere-only. A surface boundary layer temperature variance budget analysis computed in the frequency domain is shown to be a powerful tool for studying air–sea interactions, as it differentiates the relative contributions to the variability in the temperature field from each process across a range of time scales (from daily to multidecadal). This method compares terms in the ocean and atmosphere across the different model configurations to infer the underlying mechanisms driving temperature variability. Horizontal advection plays a dominant role in driving temperature variance in both the ocean and the atmosphere, particularly at time scales shorter than annual. At longer time scales, the temperature variance is dominated by strong coupling between atmosphere and ocean. Furthermore, the Ekman transport contribution to the ocean’s horizontal advection is found to underlie the low-frequency behavior in the atmosphere. The ocean geostrophic eddy field is an important driver of ocean variability across all frequencies and is reflected in the atmospheric variability in the western boundary current separation region at longer time scales.

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Henk A. Dijkstra
,
Juan A. Saenz
, and
Andrew McC. Hogg

Abstract

Oscillatory behavior of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (MOC) is thought to underlie Atlantic multidecadal climate variability. While the energy sources and sinks driving the mean MOC have received intense scrutiny over the last decade, the governing energetics of the modes of variability of the MOC have not been addressed to the same degree. This paper examines the energy conversion processes associated with this variability in an idealized North Atlantic Ocean model. In this model, the multidecadal variability arises through an instability associated with a so-called thermal Rossby mode, which involves westward propagation of temperature anomalies. Applying the available potential energy (APE) framework from stratified turbulence to the idealized ocean model simulations, the authors study the multidecadal variability from an energetics viewpoint. The analysis explains how the propagation of the temperature anomalies leads to changes in APE, which are subsequently converted into the kinetic energy changes associated with variations in the MOC. Thus, changes in the rate of generation of APE by surface buoyancy forcing provide the kinetic energy to sustain the multidecadal mode of variability.

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Michael P. Meredith
,
Alberto C. Naveira Garabato
,
Andrew McC. Hogg
, and
Riccardo Farneti

Abstract

The sensitivity of the overturning circulation in the Southern Ocean to the recent decadal strengthening of the overlying winds is being discussed intensely, with some works attributing an inferred saturation of the Southern Ocean CO2 sink to an intensification of the overturning circulation, while others have argued that this circulation is insensitive to changes in winds. Fundamental to reconciling these diverse views is to understand properly the role of eddies in counteracting the directly wind-forced changes in overturning. Here, the authors use novel theoretical considerations and fine-resolution ocean models to develop a new scaling for the sensitivity of eddy-induced mixing to changes in winds, and they demonstrate that changes in Southern Ocean overturning in response to recent and future changes in wind stress forcing are likely to be substantial, even in the presence of a decadally varying eddy field. This result has significant implications for the ocean’s role in the carbon cycle, and hence global climate.

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Stephanie M. Downes
,
Andrew McC. Hogg
,
Stephen M. Griffies
, and
Bonita L. Samuels

Abstract

Model and observational studies have concluded that geothermal heating significantly alters the global overturning circulation and the properties of the widely distributed Antarctic Bottom Water. Here two distinct geothermal heat flux datasets are tested under different experimental designs in a fully coupled model that mimics the control run of a typical Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP) climate model. The regional analysis herein reveals that bottom temperature and transport changes, due to the inclusion of geothermal heating, are propagated throughout the water column, most prominently in the Southern Ocean, with the background density structure and major circulation pathways acting as drivers of these changes. While geothermal heating enhances Southern Ocean abyssal overturning circulation by 20%–50%, upwelling of warmer deep waters and cooling of upper ocean waters within the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) region decrease its transport by 3–5 Sv (1 Sv = 106 m3 s−1). The transient responses in regional bottom temperature increases exceed 0.1°C. The large-scale features that are shown to transport anomalies far from their geothermal source all exist in the Southern Ocean. Such features include steeply sloping isopycnals, weak abyssal stratification, voluminous southward flowing deep waters and exported bottom waters, the ACC, and the polar gyres. Recently the Southern Ocean has been identified as a prime region for deep ocean warming; geothermal heating should be included in climate models to ensure accurate representation of these abyssal temperature changes.

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Kate Snow
,
Andrew McC. Hogg
,
Bernadette M. Sloyan
, and
Stephanie M. Downes

Abstract

The influence of freshwater and heat flux changes on Antarctic Bottom Water (AABW) properties are investigated within a realistic bathymetry coupled ocean–ice sector model of the Atlantic Ocean. The model simulations are conducted at eddy-permitting resolution where dense shelf water production dominates over open ocean convection in forming AABW. Freshwater and heat flux perturbations are applied independently and have contradictory surface responses, with increased upper-ocean temperature and reduced ice formation under heating and the opposite under increased freshwater fluxes. AABW transport into the abyssal ocean reduces under both flux changes, with the reduction in transport being proportional to the net buoyancy flux anomaly south of 60°S.

Through inclusion of shelf-sourced AABW, a process absent from most current generation climate models, cooling and freshening of dense source water is facilitated via reduced on-shelf/off-shelf exchange flow. Such cooling is propagated to the abyssal ocean, while compensating warming in the deep ocean under heating introduces a decadal-scale variability of the abyssal water masses. This study emphasizes the fundamental role buoyancy plays in controlling AABW, as well as the importance of the inclusion of shelf-sourced AABW within climate models in order to attain the complete spectrum of possible climate change responses.

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