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David Ferreira
,
John Marshall
, and
Jean-Michel Campin

Abstract

A series of coupled atmosphere–ocean–ice aquaplanet experiments is described in which topological constraints on ocean circulation are introduced to study the role of ocean circulation on the mean climate of the coupled system. It is imagined that the earth is completely covered by an ocean of uniform depth except for the presence or absence of narrow barriers that extend from the bottom of the ocean to the sea surface. The following four configurations are described: Aqua (no land), Ridge (one barrier extends from pole to pole), Drake (one barrier extends from the North Pole to 35°S), and DDrake (two such barriers are set 90° apart and join at the North Pole, separating the ocean into a large basin and a small basin, connected to the south). On moving from Aqua to Ridge to Drake to DDrake, the energy transports in the equilibrium solutions become increasingly “realistic,” culminating in DDrake, which has an uncanny resemblance to the present climate. Remarkably, the zonal-average climates of Drake and DDrake are strikingly similar, exhibiting almost identical heat and freshwater transports, and meridional overturning circulations. However, Drake and DDrake differ dramatically in their regional climates. The small and large basins of DDrake exhibit distinctive Atlantic-like and Pacific-like characteristics, respectively: the small basin is warmer, saltier, and denser at the surface than the large basin, and is the main site of deep water formation with a deep overturning circulation and strong northward ocean heat transport. A sensitivity experiment with DDrake demonstrates that the salinity contrast between the two basins, and hence the localization of deep convection, results from a deficit of precipitation, rather than an excess of evaporation, over the small basin. It is argued that the width of the small basin relative to the zonal fetch of atmospheric precipitation is the key to understanding this salinity contrast.

Finally, it is argued that many gross features of the present climate are consequences of two topological asymmetries that have profound effects on ocean circulation: a meridional asymmetry (circumpolar flow in the Southern Hemisphere; blocked flow in the Northern Hemisphere) and a zonal asymmetry (a small basin and a large basin).

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Martha W. Buckley
,
David Ferreira
,
Jean-Michel Campin
,
John Marshall
, and
Ross Tulloch

Abstract

Owing to the role of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) in ocean heat transport, AMOC variability is thought to play a role in climate variability on a wide range of time scales. This paper focuses on the potential role of the AMOC in climate variability on decadal time scales. Coupled and ocean-only general circulation models run in idealized geometries are utilized to study the relationships between decadal AMOC and buoyancy variability and determine whether the AMOC plays an active role in setting sea surface temperature on decadal time scales. Decadal AMOC variability is related to changes in the buoyancy field along the western boundary according to the thermal wind relation. Buoyancy anomalies originate in the upper ocean of the subpolar gyre and travel westward as baroclinic Rossby waves. When the buoyancy anomalies strike the western boundary, they are advected southward by the deep western boundary current, leading to latitudinally coherent AMOC variability. The AMOC is observed to respond passively to decadal buoyancy anomalies: although variability of the AMOC leads to meridional ocean heat transport anomalies, these transports are not responsible for creating the buoyancy anomalies in the subpolar gyre that drive AMOC variability.

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Edward W. Doddridge
,
John Marshall
,
Hajoon Song
,
Jean-Michel Campin
, and
Maxwell Kelley

Abstract

The observational record shows a substantial 40-yr upward trend in summertime westerly winds over the Southern Ocean, as characterized by the southern annular mode (SAM) index. Enhanced summertime westerly winds have been linked to cold summertime sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies. Previous studies have suggested that Ekman transport or upwelling is responsible for this seasonal cooling. Here, another process is presented in which enhanced vertical mixing, driven by summertime wind anomalies, moves heat downward, cooling the sea surface and simultaneously warming the subsurface waters. The anomalously cold SSTs draw heat from the atmosphere into the ocean, leading to increased depth-integrated ocean heat content. The subsurface heat is returned to the surface mixed layer during the autumn and winter as the mixed layer deepens, leading to anomalously warm SSTs and potentially reducing sea ice cover. Observational analyses and numerical experiments support our proposed mechanism, showing that enhanced vertical mixing produces subsurface warming and cools the surface mixed layer. Nevertheless, the dominant driver of surface cooling remains uncertain; the relative importance of advective and mixing contributions to the surface cooling is model dependent. Modeling results suggest that sea ice volume is more sensitive to summertime winds than sea ice extent, implying that enhanced summertime westerly winds may lead to thinner sea ice in the following winter, if not lesser ice extent. Thus, strong summertime winds could precondition the sea ice cover for a rapid retreat in the following melt season.

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