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Aiguo Dai
,
A. Hu
,
G. A. Meehl
,
W. M. Washington
, and
W. G. Strand

Abstract

A 1200-yr unforced control run and future climate change simulations using the Parallel Climate Model (PCM), a coupled atmosphere–ocean–land–sea ice global model with no flux adjustments and relatively high resolution (∼2.8° for the atmosphere and 2/3° for the oceans) are analyzed for changes in Atlantic Ocean circulations. For the forced simulations, historical greenhouse gas and sulfate forcing of the twentieth century and projected forcing for the next two centuries are used. The Atlantic thermohaline circulation (THC) shows large multidecadal (15–40 yr) variations with mean-peak amplitudes of 1.5–3.0 Sv (1 Sv ≡ 106 m3 s−1) and a sharp peak of power around a 24-yr period in the control run. Associated with the THC oscillations, there are large variations in North Atlantic Ocean heat transport, sea surface temperature (SST) and salinity (SSS), sea ice fraction, and net surface water and energy fluxes, which all lag the variations in THC strength by 2–3 yr. However, the net effect of the SST and SSS variations on upper-ocean density in the midlatitude North Atlantic leads the THC variations by about 6 yr, which results in the 24-yr period. The simulated SST and sea ice spatial patterns associated with the THC oscillations resemble those in observed SST and sea ice concentrations that are associated with the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). The results suggest a dominant role of the advective mechanism and strong coupling between the THC and the NAO, whose index also shows a sharp peak around the 24-yr time scale in the control run. In the forced simulations, the THC weakens by ∼12% in the twenty-first century and continues to weaken by an additional ∼10% in the twenty-second century if CO2 keeps rising, but the THC stabilizes if CO2 levels off. The THC weakening results from stabilizing temperature increases that are larger in the upper and northern Atlantic Ocean than in the deep and southern parts of the basin. In both the control and forced simulations, as the THC gains (loses) strength and depth, the separated Gulf Stream (GS) moves southward (northward) while the subpolar gyre centered at the Labrador Sea contracts from (expands to) the east with the North Atlantic Current (NAC) being shifted westward (eastward). These horizontal circulation changes, which are dynamically linked to the THC changes, induce large temperature and salinity variations around the GS and NAC paths.

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Gerald A. Meehl
,
Warren M. Washington
,
Julie M. Arblaster
,
Thomas W. Bettge
, and
Warren G. Strand Jr.

Abstract

A methodology is formulated to evaluate the possible changes in decadal-timescale (10–20-yr period) surface temperature variability and associated low-frequency fluctuations of anthropogenic forcing and changes in climate base state due to the forcing in simulations of twentieth- and twenty-first-century climate in a global coupled climate model without flux adjustment. The two climate change experiments both start in the year 1900. The first uses greenhouse gas radiative forcing (represented by equivalent CO2) observed during the twentieth century, and extends greenhouse gas forcing to the year 2035 by increasing CO2 1% yr−1 compound after 1990 (CO2-only experiment). The second includes the same greenhouse gas forcing as the first, but adds the effects of time-varying geographic distributions of monthly sulfate aerosol radiative forcing represented by a change in surface albedo (CO2 + sulfates experiment). The climate change experiments are compared with a 135-yr control experiment with no change in external forcing. Climate system responses in the CO2-only and CO2 + sulfates experiments in this particular model are marked not only by greater warming at high latitudes in the winter hemisphere, but also by a global El Niño–like pattern in surface temperature, precipitation, and sea level pressure. This pattern is characterized by a relatively greater increase of SST in the central and eastern equatorial Pacific in comparison with the west, a shift of precipitation maxima from the western Pacific to the central Pacific, mostly decreases of Asian–Australian monsoon strength, lower pressure over the eastern tropical Pacific, deeper midlatitude troughs in the North and South Pacific, and higher pressure over Australasia. Time series analysis of globally averaged temperature and an EOF analysis of surface temperature are consistent with previous results in that enhanced low-frequency variability with periods greater than around 20 yr is introduced into the model coupled climate system with a comparable timescale to the forcing. To examine the possible effects of the associated changes in base state on decadal timescale variability (10–20-yr periods), the surface temperature time series are filtered to retain only variability on that timescale. The El Niño–like pattern of decadal variability seen in the observations is present in each of the model experiments (control, CO2 only, and CO2 + sulfates), but the magnitude decreases significantly in the CO2-only experiment. This decrease is associated with changes in the base-state climate that include a reduction in the magnitude (roughly 5%–20% or more) of wind stress and ocean currents in the upper 100 m in most ocean basins and a weakening of meridional overturning (about 50%) in the Atlantic. These weakened circulation features contribute to decreasing the amplitude of global decadal surface temperature variability as seen in a previous sea-ice sensitivity study with this model. Thus the superposition of low-frequency variability patterns in the radiative forcing increases climate variability for periods comparable to those of the forcing (greater than about 20 yr). However, there are decreases in the amplitude of future decadal (10–20-yr period) variability in these experiments due to changes of the base-state climate as a consequence of increases in that forcing.

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