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Andreas Schmittner, Tiago A. M. Silva, Klaus Fraedrich, Edilbert Kirk, and Frank Lunkeit


The impact of mountains and ice sheets on the large-scale circulation of the world’s oceans is investigated in a series of simulations with a new coupled ocean–atmosphere model [Oregon State University–University of Victoria model (OSUVic)], in which the height of orography is scaled from 1.5 times the actual height (at T42 resolution) to 0 (no mountains). The results suggest that the effects of mountains and ice sheets on the buoyancy and momentum transfer from the atmosphere to the surface ocean determine the present pattern of deep ocean circulation. Higher mountains reduce water vapor transport from the Pacific and Indian Oceans into the Atlantic Ocean and contribute to increased (decreased) salinities and enhanced (reduced) deep-water formation and meridional overturning circulation in the Atlantic (Pacific). Orographic effects also lead to the observed interhemispheric asymmetry of midlatitude zonal wind stress. The presence of the Antarctic ice sheet cools winter air temperatures by more than 20°C directly above the ice sheet and sets up a polar meridional overturning cell in the atmosphere. The resulting increased meridional temperature gradient strengthens midlatitude westerlies by ~25% and shifts them poleward by ~10°. This leads to enhanced and poleward-shifted upwelling of deep waters in the Southern Ocean, a stronger Antarctic Circumpolar Current, increased poleward atmospheric moisture transport, and more advection of high-salinity Indian Ocean water into the South Atlantic. Thus, it is the current configuration of mountains and ice sheets on earth that determines the difference in deep-water formation between the Atlantic and the Pacific.

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Mojib Latif, Joachim Biercamp, Hans von Storch, Michael J. McPhaden, and Edilbert Kirk


The ECMWF-T21 atmospheric GCM is forced by observed near-global SST from January 1970 to December 1985. Its response in low level winds and surface wind stress over the Pacific Ocean is compared with various observations.

The time dependent SST clearly induces a Southern Oscillation (SO) in the model run which is apparent in the time series of all variables considered. The phase of the GCM SO is as observed, but its low frequency variance is too weak and is mainly confined to the western Pacific.

Because of the GCM's use as the atmospheric component in a coupled ocean-atmosphere model, the response of an equatorial oceanic primitive equation model to both the modeled and observed wind stress is examined. The ocean model responds to the full observed wind stress forcing in a manner almost identical to that when it is forced by the first two low frequency EOFs of the observations only. These first two EOFs describe a regular eastward propagation of the SO signal from the western Pacific to the central Pacific within about a year. The ocean model's response to the modeled wind stress is too weak and similar to the response when the observed forcing is truncated to the first EOF only. In other words, the observed SO appears as a sequence of propagating patterns but the simulated SO as a standing oscillation.

The nature of the deviation of the simulated wind stress from observations is analyzed by means of Model Output Statistics (MOS). It is shown that a MOS-corrected simulated wind stress, if used to force an ocean GCM, leads to a significant enhancement of low frequency SST variance, which is most pronounced in the western Pacific.

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