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Michael Eby and Greg Holloway

Abstract

A conventional ocean model was revised to include a tendency for velocities to relax toward a maximum entropy solution that depends on the shape of topography. The tendency, called topographic stress, generates poleward eastern boundary undercurrents, strengthens equatorward deep western boundary currents, sustains a deep Alaska Stream, and contributes to deep water exchange. Although the influence of topographic stress is most clearly seen at depth, surface expressions include reducing the overshoot of western boundary current separation, thereby limiting implied air-sea heat and freshwater fluxes near these separations.

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Andrew J. Weaver and Michael Eby

Abstract

The results from ocean model experiments conducted with isopycnal and isopycnal thickness diffusion parameterizations for subgrid-scale mixing associated with mesoscale eddies are examined from a numerical standpoint. It is shown that when the mixing tensor is rotated, so that mixing is primarily along isopycnals, numerical problems may occur and non-monotonic solutions, which violate the second law of thermodynamics, may arise when standard centered difference advection algorithms are used. These numerical problems can be reduced or eliminated if sufficient explicit (unphysical) background horizontal diffusion is added to the mixing scheme. A more appropriate solution is the use of more sophisticated numerical advection algorithms, such as the flux- corrected transport algorithm. This choice of advection scheme adds additional mixing only where it is needed to preserve monotonicty and so retains the physically desirable aspects of the isopycnal and isopycnal thickness diffusion parameterizations, while removing the undesirable numerical noise. The price for this improvement is a computational increase.

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J. Paul Spence, Michael Eby, and Andrew J. Weaver

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The effect of increasing horizontal resolution is examined to assess the response of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) to freshwater perturbations. Versions of a global climate model with horizontal resolutions ranging from 1.8° (latitude) × 3.6° (longitude) to 0.2° × 0.4° are used to determine if the AMOC response to freshwater forcing is robust to increasing resolution. In the preindustrial equilibrium climate, the representation of western boundary currents and meridional heat transport are improved with resolution. Freshwater forcings similar to the final drainage of proglacial Lakes Agassiz and Ojibway are applied evenly over the Labrador Sea and exclusively along the western boundary. The duration and maximum amplitude of model responses to freshwater forcing showed little sensitivity to increasing resolution. An evaluation with tracers of the forcing impact on different regions of North Atlantic Deep Water formation revealed the possibility that increases in Labrador Sea deep convection at higher resolution mitigate the effect of stronger boundary currents and enhanced mixing. With increasing resolution, there is less cooling in the subpolar west Atlantic, more cooling in the subpolar east Atlantic, and greater variability in the deep ocean response to the boundary forcing. While differences exist, the coarse-resolution model response remains robust at finer horizontal resolutions.

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Paul Spence, Oleg A. Saenko, Michael Eby, and Andrew J. Weaver

Abstract

Four versions of the same global climate model, with horizontal resolution ranging from 1.8° × 3.6° to 0.2° × 0.4°, are employed to evaluate the resolution dependence of the Southern Ocean meridional overturning circulation. At coarse resolutions North Atlantic Deep Water tends to upwell diabatically at low latitudes, so that the Southern Ocean is weakly coupled with the rest of the ocean. As resolution increases and eddy effects become less parameterized the interior circulation becomes more adiabatic and deep water increasingly upwells by flowing along isopycnals in the Southern Ocean, despite each model having the same vertical diffusivity profile. Separating the overturning circulation into mean and eddy-induced components demonstrates that both the permitted and the parameterized eddies induce overturning cells in the Southern Ocean with mass fluxes across mean isopycnals. It is found that for some density classes the transformation rate derived from surface buoyancy fluxes can provide a proxy for the net meridional transport in the upper Southern Ocean. Changes in the Southern Ocean overturning in response to poleward-intensifying Southern Hemisphere winds concomitant with increasing atmospheric CO2 through the twenty-first century are also investigated. Results suggest that the circulation associated with the formation of Antarctic Intermediate Water is likely to strengthen, or stay essentially unchanged, rather than to slow down.

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Dana Ehlert, Kirsten Zickfeld, Michael Eby, and Nathan Gillett

Abstract

The ratio of global mean surface air temperature change to cumulative CO2 emissions, referred to as transient climate response to cumulative CO2 emissions (TCRE), has been shown to be approximately constant on centennial time scales. The mechanisms behind this constancy are not well understood, but previous studies suggest that compensating effects of ocean heat and carbon fluxes, which are governed by the same ocean mixing processes, could be one cause for this approximate constancy. This hypothesis is investigated by forcing different versions of the University of Victoria Earth System Climate Model, which differ in the ocean mixing parameterization, with an idealized scenario of 1% annually increasing atmospheric CO2 until quadrupling of the preindustrial CO2 concentration and constant concentration thereafter. The relationship between surface air warming and cumulative emissions remains close to linear, but the TCRE varies between model versions, spanning the range of 1.2°–2.1°C EgC−1 at the time of CO2 doubling. For all model versions, the TCRE is not constant over time while atmospheric CO2 concentrations increase. It is constant after atmospheric CO2 stabilizes at 1120 ppm, because of compensating changes in temperature sensitivity (temperature change per unit radiative forcing) and cumulative airborne fraction. The TCRE remains approximately constant over time even if temperature sensitivity, determined by ocean heat flux, and cumulative airborne fraction, determined by ocean carbon flux, are taken from different model versions with different ocean mixing settings. This can partially be explained with temperature sensitivity and cumulative airborne fraction following similar trajectories, which suggests ocean heat and carbon fluxes scale approximately linearly with changes in vertical mixing.

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Andrew H. MacDougall, Michael Eby, and Andrew J. Weaver

Abstract

If anthropogenic CO2 emissions were to suddenly cease, the evolution of the atmospheric CO2 concentration would depend on the magnitude and sign of natural carbon sources and sinks. Experiments using Earth system models indicate that the overall carbon sinks dominate, such that upon the cessation of anthropogenic emissions, atmospheric CO2 levels decrease over time. However, these models have typically neglected the permafrost carbon pool, which has the potential to introduce an additional terrestrial source of carbon to the atmosphere. Here, the authors use the University of Victoria Earth System Climate Model (UVic ESCM), which has recently been expanded to include permafrost carbon stocks and exchanges with the atmosphere. In a scenario of zeroed CO2 and sulfate aerosol emissions, whether the warming induced by specified constant concentrations of non-CO2 greenhouse gases could slow the CO2 decline following zero emissions or even reverse this trend and cause CO2 to increase over time is assessed. It is found that a radiative forcing from non-CO2 gases of approximately 0.6 W m−2 results in a near balance of CO2 emissions from the terrestrial biosphere and uptake of CO2 by the oceans, resulting in near-constant atmospheric CO2 concentrations for at least a century after emissions are eliminated. At higher values of non-CO2 radiative forcing, CO2 concentrations increase over time, regardless of when emissions cease during the twenty-first century. Given that the present-day radiative forcing from non-CO2 greenhouse gases is about 0.95 W m−2, the results suggest that if all CO2 and aerosols emissions were eliminated without also decreasing non-CO2 greenhouse gas emissions CO2 levels would increase over time, resulting in a small increase in climate warming associated with this positive permafrost–carbon feedback.

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Oleg A. Saenko, Jonathan M. Gregory, Andrew J. Weaver, and Michael Eby

Abstract

The influence of surface fluxes of heat, freshwater, and momentum on ocean circulation and transports are analyzed using a coupled atmosphere–ocean climate model. A control simulation is compared with experiments in which freshwater and wind stress forcing are suppressed separately and together. Thermal forcing is the dominant driving force of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation, with freshwater and wind stress forcing both having a smaller positive influence. In the Pacific, on the other hand, freshwater forcing has a negative influence; eliminating it intensifies the meridional overturning, leading to the formation of a deep western boundary current. This difference in sign is consistent with the Atlantic being a net evaporative basin and the Pacific one with net precipitation. Deep outflow from the Atlantic at 30°S is more strongly dependent on freshwater than on wind stress forcing. The sensitivity to freshwater forcing is increased when the model is modified to include the eddy mixing parameterization of Gent and McWilliams. Suppressing the wind stress forcing reduces the flow through Drake Passage and eliminates the subtropical barotropic gyres. Even without the gyres, however, there is still a so-called gyre component of ocean meridional freshwater and heat transport. Hence, the “gyre” and “overturning” components of transport cannot be identified with wind-driven and thermohaline circulations, respectively. The model results suggest that the Atlantic thermohaline circulation may compensate for the net evaporation from the basin by transporting freshwater northward at 30°S.

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John C. Fyfe, Oleg A. Saenko, Kirsten Zickfeld, Michael Eby, and Andrew J. Weaver

Abstract

Recent analyses of the latest series of climate model simulations suggest that increasing CO2 emissions in the atmosphere are partly responsible for (i) the observed poleward shifting and strengthening of the Southern Hemisphere subpolar westerlies (in association with shifting of the southern annular mode toward a higher index state), and (ii) the observed warming of the subsurface Southern Ocean. Here the role that poleward-intensifying westerlies play in subsurface Southern Ocean warming is explored. To this end a climate model of intermediate complexity was driven separately, and in combination with, time-varying CO2 emissions and time-varying surface winds (derived from the fully coupled climate model simulations mentioned above). Experiments suggest that the combination of the direct radiative effect of CO2 emissions and poleward-intensified winds sets the overall magnitude of Southern Ocean warming, and that the poleward-intensified winds are key in terms of determining its latitudinal structure. In particular, changes in wind stress curl associated with poleward-intensified winds significantly enhance pure CO2-induced subsurface warming around 45°S (through increased downwelling of warm surface water), reduces it at higher latitudes (through increased upwelling of cold deep water), and reduces it at lower latitudes (through decreased downwelling of warm surface water). Experiments also support recent high-resolution ocean model experiments suggesting that enhanced mesoscale eddy activity associated with poleward-intensified winds influences subsurface (and surface) warming. In particular, it is found that increased poleward heat transport associated with increased mesoscale eddy activity enhances the warming south of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current. Finally, a mechanism involving offshore Ekman sea ice transport (modulated by enhanced mesoscale activity) that acts to significantly limit the human-induced high-latitude Southern Hemisphere surface temperature response is reported on.

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Kirsten Zickfeld, Michael Eby, H. Damon Matthews, Andreas Schmittner, and Andrew J. Weaver

Abstract

Coupled climate–carbon models have shown the potential for large feedbacks between climate change, atmospheric CO2 concentrations, and global carbon sinks. Standard metrics of this feedback assume that the response of land and ocean carbon uptake to CO2 (concentration–carbon cycle feedback) and climate change (climate–carbon cycle feedback) combine linearly. This study explores the linearity in the carbon cycle response by analyzing simulations with an earth system model of intermediate complexity [the University of Victoria Earth System Climate Model (UVic ESCM)]. The results indicate that the concentration–carbon and climate–carbon cycle feedbacks do not combine linearly to the overall carbon cycle feedback. In this model, the carbon sinks on land and in the ocean are less efficient when exposed to the combined effect of elevated CO2 and climate change than to the linear combination of the two. The land accounts for about 80% of the nonlinearity, with the ocean accounting for the remaining 20%. On land, this nonlinearity is associated with the different response of vegetation and soil carbon uptake to climate in the presence or absence of the CO2 fertilization effect. In the ocean, the nonlinear response is caused by the interaction of changes in physical properties and anthropogenic CO2. These findings suggest that metrics of carbon cycle feedback that postulate linearity in the system’s response may not be adequate.

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Marika M. Holland, Cecilia M. Bitz, Michael Eby, and Andrew J. Weaver

Abstract

The simulated influence of Arctic sea ice on the variability of the North Atlantic climate is discussed in the context of a global coupled ice–ocean–atmosphere model. This coupled system incorporates a general circulation ocean model, an atmospheric energy moisture balance model, and a dynamic–thermodynamic sea ice model. Under steady seasonal forcing, an equilibrium solution is obtained with very little variability. To induce variability in the model, daily varying stochastic anomalies are applied to the wind forcing of the Northern Hemisphere sea ice cover. These stochastic anomalies have observed spatial patterns but are random in time. Model simulations are run for 1000 yr from an equilibrium state and the variability in the system is analyzed. The sensitivity of the system to the ice–ocean coupling of both heat and freshwater is also examined.

Under the stochastic forcing conditions, the thermohaline circulation (THC) responds with variability that is approximately 10% of the mean. This variability has enhanced spectral power at interdecadal timescales that is concentrated at approximately 20 yr. It is forced by fluctuations in the export of ice from the Arctic into the North Atlantic. Substantial changes in sea surface temperature and salinity are related to changes in the overturning circulation and the sea ice coverage in the northern North Atlantic. Additionally, the THC variability influences the Arctic Basin through heat transport under the ice pack.

Results from sensitivity studies suggest that the freshwater exchange from the variable ice cover is the dominant process for forcing variability in the overturning. The simulated Arctic ice export appears to provide stochastic forcing to the northern North Atlantic that excites a damped oscillatory ocean-only mode. The insulating capacity of the variable sea ice has a negligible effect on the THC. Ice–ocean thermal coupling acts to damp THC variability, causing an approximately 25% reduction in the THC standard deviation.

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