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Stephanie Leroux
Thierry Penduff
Laurent Bessières
Jean-Marc Molines
Jean-Michel Brankart
Guillaume Sérazin
Bernard Barnier
, and
Laurent Terray


This study investigates the origin and features of interannual–decadal Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) variability from several ocean simulations, including a large (50 member) ensemble of global, eddy-permitting (1/4°) ocean–sea ice hindcasts. After an initial stochastic perturbation, each member is driven by the same realistic atmospheric forcing over 1960–2015. The magnitude, spatiotemporal scales, and patterns of both the atmospherically forced and intrinsic–chaotic interannual AMOC variability are then characterized from the ensemble mean and ensemble spread, respectively. The analysis of the ensemble-mean variability shows that the AMOC fluctuations north of 40°N are largely driven by the atmospheric variability, which forces meridionally coherent fluctuations reaching decadal time scales. The amplitude of the intrinsic interannual AMOC variability never exceeds the atmospherically forced contribution in the Atlantic basin, but it reaches up to 100% of the latter around 35°S and 60% in the Northern Hemisphere midlatitudes. The intrinsic AMOC variability exhibits a large-scale meridional coherence, especially south of 25°N. An EOF analysis over the basin shows two large-scale leading modes that together explain 60% of the interannual intrinsic variability. The first mode is likely excited by intrinsic oceanic processes at the southern end of the basin and affects latitudes up to 40°N; the second mode is mostly restricted to, and excited within, the Northern Hemisphere midlatitudes. These features of the intrinsic, chaotic variability (intensity, patterns, and random phase) are barely sensitive to the atmospheric evolution, and they strongly resemble the “pure intrinsic” interannual AMOC variability that emerges in climatological simulations under repeated seasonal-cycle forcing. These results raise questions about the attribution of observed and simulated AMOC signals and about the possible impact of intrinsic signals on the atmosphere.

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