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  • Author or Editor: M. J. Atkinson x
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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


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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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


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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