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Juliette Mignot and Claude Frankignoul

Abstract

The link between the interannual to interdecadal variability of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) and the atmospheric forcing is investigated using 200 yr of a control simulation of the Bergen Climate Model, where the mean circulation cell is rather realistic, as is also the location of deep convection in the northern North Atlantic. The AMOC variability has a slightly red frequency spectrum and is primarily forced by the atmosphere. The maximum value of the AMOC is mostly sensitive to the deep convection in the Irminger Sea, which it lags by about 5 yr. The latter is mostly forced by a succession of atmospheric patterns that induce anomalous northerly winds over the area. The impact of the North Atlantic Oscillation on deep convection in the Labrador and Greenland Seas is represented realistically, but its influence on the AMOC is limited to the interannual time scale and is primarily associated with wind forcing. The tropical Pacific shows a strong variability in the model, with too strong an influence on the North Atlantic. However, its influence on the tropical Atlantic is realistic. Based on lagged correlations and the release of fictitious Lagrangian drifters, the tropical Pacific seems to influence the AMOC with a time lag of about 40 yr. The mechanism is as follows: El Niño events induce positive sea surface salinity anomalies in the tropical Atlantic that are advected northward, circulate in the subtropical gyre, and then subduct. In the ocean interior, part of the salinity anomaly is advected along the North Atlantic current, eventually reaching the Irminger and Labrador Seas after about 35 yr where they destabilize the water column and favor deep convection.

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Andreas Born, Juliette Mignot, and Thomas F. Stocker

Abstract

Decadal climate variability in the North Atlantic has received increased attention in recent years, because modeling results suggest predictability of heat content and circulation indices several years ahead. However, determining the applicability of these results in the real world is challenging because of an incomplete understanding of the underlying mechanisms. Here, the authors show that recent attempts to reconstruct the decadal variations in one of the dominant circulation systems of the region, the subpolar gyre (SPG), are not always consistent. A coherent picture is partly recovered by a simple conceptual model solely forced by reanalyzed surface air temperatures. This confirms that surface heat flux indeed plays a leading role for this type of variability, as has been suggested in previous studies. The results further suggest that large variations in the SPG correspond to the crossing of a bifurcation point that is predicted from idealized experiments and an analytical solution of the model used herein. Performance of this conceptual model is tested against a statistical stochastic model. Hysteresis and the existence of two stable modes of the SPG circulation shape its response to forcing by atmospheric temperatures. The identification of the essential dynamics and the reduction to a minimal model of SPG variability provide a quantifiable basis and a framework for future studies on decadal climate variability and predictability.

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Camille Marini, Claude Frankignoul, and Juliette Mignot

Abstract

The links between the atmospheric southern annular mode (SAM), the Southern Ocean, and the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) at interannual to multidecadal time scales are investigated in a 500-yr control integration of the L’Institut Pierre-Simon Laplace Coupled Model, version 4 (IPSL CM4) climate model. The Antarctic Circumpolar Current, as described by its transport through the Drake Passage, is well correlated with the SAM at the yearly time scale, reflecting that an intensification of the westerlies south of 45°S leads to its acceleration. Also in phase with a positive SAM, the global meridional overturning circulation is modified in the Southern Hemisphere, primarily reflecting a forced barotropic response. In the model, the AMOC and the SAM are linked at several time scales. An intensification of the AMOC lags a positive SAM by about 8 yr. This is due to a correlation between the SAM and the atmospheric circulation in the northern North Atlantic that reflects a symmetric ENSO influence on the two hemispheres, as well as an independent, delayed interhemispheric link driven by the SAM. Both effects lead to an intensification of the subpolar gyre and, by salinity advection, increased deep convection and a stronger AMOC. A slower oceanic link between the SAM and the AMOC is found at a multidecadal time scale. Salinity anomalies generated by the SAM enter the South Atlantic from the Drake Passage and, more importantly, the Indian Ocean; they propagate northward, eventually reaching the northern North Atlantic where, for a positive SAM, they decrease the vertical stratification and thus increase the AMOC.

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Julián Villamayor, Elsa Mohino, Myriam Khodri, Juliette Mignot, and Serge Janicot

Abstract

Precipitation regime shifts in the Sahel region have dramatic humanitarian and economic consequences such as the severe droughts during the 1970s and 1980s. Though Sahel precipitation changes during the late twentieth century have been extensively studied, little is known about the decadal variability prior to the twentieth century. Some evidence suggests that during the second half of the nineteenth century, the Sahel was as rainy as or even more rainy than during the 1950s and 1960s. Here, we reproduce such an anomalous Sahel humid period in the late nineteenth century by means of climate simulations. We show that this increase of rainfall was associated with an anomalous supply of humidity and higher-than-normal deep convection in the mid- and high troposphere. We present evidence suggesting that sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in the Atlantic basin played the dominant role in driving decadal Sahel rainfall variability during this early period.

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Didier Swingedouw, Juliette Mignot, Pascale Braconnot, Eloi Mosquet, Masa Kageyama, and Ramdane Alkama

Abstract

The response of climate to freshwater input in the North Atlantic (NA) has raised a lot of concern about the issue of climate stability since the discovery of abrupt coolings during the last glacial period. Such coolings have usually been related to a weakening of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC), probably associated with massive iceberg surges or meltwater pulses. Additionally, the recent increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has also raised the possibility of a melting of the Greenland ice sheet, which may impact the future AMOC, and thereby the climate. In this study, the extent to which the mean climate influences the freshwater release linked to ice sheet melting in the NA and the associated climatic response is explored. For this purpose the simulations of several climatic states [last interglacial, Last Glacial Maximum, mid-Holocene, preindustrial, and future (2 × CO2)] are considered, and the climatic response to a freshwater input computed interactively according to a surface heat flux budget over the ice sheets is analyzed. It is shown that the AMOC response is not linear with the freshwater input and depends on the mean climate state. The climatic responses to these different AMOC changes share qualitative similarities for the general picture, notably a cooling in the Northern Hemisphere and a southward shift of the intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ) in the Atlantic and across the Panama Isthmus. The cooling in the Northern Hemisphere is related to the sea ice cover response, which strongly depends on the responses of the atmospheric circulation, the local oceanic heat transport, and the density threshold of the oceanic convection sites. These feedbacks and the magnitude of temperature and precipitation changes outside the North Atlantic depend on the mean climate.

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