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Arthur Coquereau
,
Florian Sévellec
,
Thierry Huck
,
Joël J.-M. Hirschi
, and
Antoine Hochet

Abstract

As well as having an impact on the background state of the climate, global warming due to human activities could affect its natural oscillations and internal variability. In this study, we use four initial-condition ensembles from the CMIP6 framework to investigate the potential evolution of internal climate variability under different warming pathways for the twenty-first century. Our results suggest significant changes in natural climate variability and point to two distinct regimes driving these changes. The first is a decrease in internal variability of surface air temperature at high latitudes and all frequencies, associated with a poleward shift and the gradual disappearance of sea ice edges, which we show to be an important component of internal variability. The second is an intensification of the interannual variability of surface air temperature and precipitation at low latitudes, which appears to be associated with El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO). This second regime is particularly alarming because it may contribute to making the climate more unstable and less predictable, with a significant impact on human societies and ecosystems.

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W. E. Johns
,
M. O. Baringer
,
L. M. Beal
,
S. A. Cunningham
,
T. Kanzow
,
H. L. Bryden
,
J. J. M. Hirschi
,
J. Marotzke
,
C. S. Meinen
,
B. Shaw
, and
R. Curry

Abstract

Continuous estimates of the oceanic meridional heat transport in the Atlantic are derived from the Rapid Climate Change–Meridional Overturning Circulation (MOC) and Heatflux Array (RAPID–MOCHA) observing system deployed along 26.5°N, for the period from April 2004 to October 2007. The basinwide meridional heat transport (MHT) is derived by combining temperature transports (relative to a common reference) from 1) the Gulf Stream in the Straits of Florida; 2) the western boundary region offshore of Abaco, Bahamas; 3) the Ekman layer [derived from Quick Scatterometer (QuikSCAT) wind stresses]; and 4) the interior ocean monitored by “endpoint” dynamic height moorings. The interior eddy heat transport arising from spatial covariance of the velocity and temperature fields is estimated independently from repeat hydrographic and expendable bathythermograph (XBT) sections and can also be approximated by the array.

The results for the 3.5 yr of data thus far available show a mean MHT of 1.33 ± 0.40 PW for 10-day-averaged estimates, on which time scale a basinwide mass balance can be reasonably assumed. The associated MOC strength and variability is 18.5 ± 4.9 Sv (1 Sv ≡ 106 m3 s−1). The continuous heat transport estimates range from a minimum of 0.2 to a maximum of 2.5 PW, with approximately half of the variance caused by Ekman transport changes and half caused by changes in the geostrophic circulation. The data suggest a seasonal cycle of the MHT with a maximum in summer (July–September) and minimum in late winter (March–April), with an annual range of 0.6 PW. A breakdown of the MHT into “overturning” and “gyre” components shows that the overturning component carries 88% of the total heat transport. The overall uncertainty of the annual mean MHT for the 3.5-yr record is 0.14 PW or about 10% of the mean value.

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T. Kanzow
,
S. A. Cunningham
,
W. E. Johns
,
J. J-M. Hirschi
,
J. Marotzke
,
M. O. Baringer
,
C. S. Meinen
,
M. P. Chidichimo
,
C. Atkinson
,
L. M. Beal
,
H. L. Bryden
, and
J. Collins

Abstract

The Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) makes the strongest oceanic contribution to the meridional redistribution of heat. Here, an observation-based, 48-month-long time series of the vertical structure and strength of the AMOC at 26.5°N is presented. From April 2004 to April 2008, the AMOC had a mean strength of 18.7 ± 2.1 Sv (1 Sv ≡ 106 m3 s−1) with fluctuations of 4.8 Sv rms. The best guess of the peak-to-peak amplitude of the AMOC seasonal cycle is 6.7 Sv, with a maximum strength in autumn and a minimum in spring. While seasonality in the AMOC was commonly thought to be dominated by the northward Ekman transport, this study reveals that fluctuations of the geostrophic midocean and Gulf Stream transports of 2.2 and 1.7 Sv rms, respectively, are substantially larger than those of the Ekman component (1.2 Sv rms). A simple model based on linear dynamics suggests that the seasonal cycle is dominated by wind stress curl forcing at the eastern boundary of the Atlantic. Seasonal geostrophic AMOC anomalies might represent an important and previously underestimated component of meridional transport and storage of heat in the subtropical North Atlantic. There is evidence that the seasonal cycle observed here is representative of much longer intervals. Previously, hydrographic snapshot estimates between 1957 and 2004 had suggested a long-term decline of the AMOC by 8 Sv. This study suggests that aliasing of seasonal AMOC anomalies might have accounted for a large part of the inferred slowdown.

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B. I. Moat
,
B. Sinha
,
S. A. Josey
,
J. Robson
,
P. Ortega
,
F. Sévellec
,
N. P. Holliday
,
G. D. McCarthy
,
A. L. New
, and
J. J.-M. Hirschi

Abstract

An ocean mixed layer heat budget methodology is used to investigate the physical processes determining subpolar North Atlantic (SPNA) sea surface temperature (SST) and ocean heat content (OHC) variability on decadal to multidecadal time scales using the state-of-the-art climate model HadGEM3-GC2. New elements include development of an equation for evolution of anomalous SST for interannual and longer time scales in a form analogous to that for OHC, parameterization of the diffusive heat flux at the base of the mixed layer, and analysis of a composite Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) event. Contributions to OHC and SST variability from two sources are evaluated: 1) net ocean–atmosphere heat flux and 2) all other processes, including advection, diffusion, and entrainment for SST. Anomalies in OHC tendency propagate anticlockwise around the SPNA on multidecadal time scales with a clear relationship to the phase of the AMOC. AMOC anomalies lead SST tendencies, which in turn lead OHC tendencies in both the eastern and western SPNA. OHC and SST variations in the SPNA on decadal time scales are dominated by AMOC variability because it controls variability of advection, which is shown to be the dominant term in the OHC budget. Lags between OHC and SST are traced to differences between the advection term for OHC and the advection–entrainment term for SST. The new results have implications for interpretation of variations in Atlantic heat uptake in the CMIP6 climate model assessment.

Open access
A. Duchez
,
J. J.-M. Hirschi
,
S. A. Cunningham
,
A. T. Blaker
,
H. L. Bryden
,
B. de Cuevas
,
C. P. Atkinson
,
G. D. McCarthy
,
E. Frajka-Williams
,
D. Rayner
,
D. Smeed
, and
M. S. Mizielinski

Abstract

The Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) has received considerable attention, motivated by its major role in the global climate system. Observations of AMOC strength at 26°N made by the Rapid Climate Change (RAPID) array provide the best current estimate of the state of the AMOC. The period 2004–11 when RAPID AMOC is available is too short to assess decadal variability of the AMOC. This modeling study introduces a new AMOC index (called AMOCSV) at 26°N that combines the Florida Straits transport, the Ekman transport, and the southward geostrophic Sverdrup transport. The main hypothesis in this study is that the upper midocean geostrophic transport calculated using the RAPID array is also wind-driven and can be approximated by the geostrophic Sverdrup transport at interannual and longer time scales. This index is expected to reflect variations in the AMOC at interannual to decadal time scales. This estimate of the surface branch of the AMOC can be constructed as long as reliable measurements are available for the Gulf Stream and for wind stress. To test the reliability of the AMOCSV on interannual and longer time scales, two different numerical simulations are used: a forced and a coupled simulation. Using these simulations the AMOCSV captures a substantial fraction of the AMOC variability and is in good agreement with the AMOC transport at 26°N on both interannual and decadal time scales. These results indicate that it might be possible to extend the observation-based AMOC at 26°N back to the 1980s.

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