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Oleg A. Saenko

Abstract

Observations indicate that intense mixing in the ocean is localized above complex topography and near the boundaries. Model experiments presented here illustrate that accounting for this fact can be important. In particular, it is found that in the case of localized mixing, the rate of overturning circulation is proportional to the net rate of generation of potential energy by the vertical mixing, linked to the net downward heat diffusion, rather than to the value of the mean vertical diffusivity coefficient. Furthermore, it is shown that two climate models, having the same vertical profile of diffusivity but differing in their distribution (horizontally uniform versus topography/boundary intensified) can simulate significantly different meridional oceanic circulations, vertical heat transfers, and responses of simulated climate to atmospheric CO2 increase. This is found for relatively large [O(1.0 cm2 s−1)] horizontal-mean values of vertical diffusivity in the pycnocline. However, in cases of relatively small [O(0.1 cm2 s−1)] mean diffusivity in the pycnocline, the simulated integral quantities such as meridional mass and heat transports do not depend much on the details of the mixing distribution. Even so, it is found that the deep western boundary currents are more localized near the boundaries in the case of topography/boundary-intensified mixing; also, the stratification in the deep ocean is set through the localized regions of intense vertical mixing. In addition, it is shown that reconciling the observed basin-mean values of diffusivity in the abyssal ocean of O(10 cm2 s−1) with realistic stratification can be problematic, unless the regions of enhanced vertical mixing are localized.

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Oleg A. Saenko

Abstract

A climate model is used to study the climatic impact of the stress exerted on the ocean by the atmosphere. When this stress is set to zero everywhere, the climate becomes much colder, with global-mean near-surface air temperature dropping from 14.8° to 6.1°C. The largest temperature decrease occurs in high latitudes, where sea ice advances equatorward to 40° of latitude. Many of these changes are induced by the changes in the oceanic circulation. In particular, with momentum flux set to zero, the meridional transport of buoyancy in the ocean, including that fraction often associated with the buoyancy-driven circulation, essentially vanishes and, hence, so does much of the surface heat flux. Vertical transport of buoyancy in the ocean is also strongly affected. In addition, the model suggests that the flux of momentum to the ocean has a profound indirect influence on the transport of latent heat. However, the total radiative flux entering the planet at low and midlatitudes does not change much. Instead, the net energy transport across 40°S increases, whereas that across 40°N decreases. The poleward energy transport in the atmosphere increases at midlatitudes in both hemispheres, whereas the oceanic heat transport decreases most strongly in the Northern Hemisphere. The climate becomes colder in both hemispheres, which is not easy to infer from the meridional transport of energy either by the climate system as a whole or by its individual components. Furthermore, the model suggests that it is the wind stress driving the midlatitude oceans—that is, where the oceanic heat transport accounts for only a very tiny fraction of the total poleward energy transport by the climate system, which is of more importance for maintaining the mean position of sea ice edge and, hence, much of the global climate.

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Oleg A. Saenko

Abstract

Results from eight ocean–atmosphere general circulation models are used to evaluate the influence of the projected changes in the oceanic stratification on the first baroclinic Rossby radius of deformation in the ocean, associated with atmospheric CO2 increase. For each of the models, an oceanic state corresponding to the A1B stabilization experiment (with atmospheric CO2 concentration of 720 ppm) is compared to a state corresponding to the preindustrial control experiment (with atmospheric CO2 concentration of 280 ppm). In all of the models, the first baroclinic Rossby radius increases with increasing oceanic stratification in the warmer climate. There is, however, a considerable range among the models in the magnitude of the increase. At the latitudes of intense eddy activity associated with instability of western boundary currents (around 35°–40°), the increase reaches 4 km on average, or about 15% of the local baroclinic Rossby radius. Some of the models predict an increase of the baroclinic Rossby radius by more than 20% at these latitudes under the applied forcing. It is therefore suggested that in a plausible future warmer climate, the characteristic length scale of mesoscale eddies, as well as boundary currents and fronts, may increase. In addition, since the speed of long baroclinic Rossby waves is proportional to the squared baroclinic Rossby radius of deformation, the results suggest that the time scale for large-scale dynamical oceanic adjustment may decrease in the warmer climate, thereby increasing the frequency of long-term climate variability where the oceanic Rossby wave dynamics set the dominant period. Finally, the speed of equatorial Kelvin waves and Rossby waves, carrying signals along the equator, including those related to ENSO, is projected to increase.

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Oleg A. Saenko

Abstract

Using a set of models, including one with a resolution of ¼°, several aspects of the simulated seasonal currents in the deep ocean are considered. It is shown that over vast areas of the deep interior, particularly in the Indian Ocean, annual-mean circulation represents a small residual of much stronger seasonal flows. In many places the seasonal horizontal velocities are of the order of 10−2 m s−1, reaching locally to 10−1 m s−1; the corresponding vertical velocities are of the order of 10−5 m s−1. An idealized geometry model is employed to confirm the notion that much of this seasonal variability in the deep-ocean circulation can be attributed to the annual cycle of wind stress, combined with the significant increase in the vertical trapping depth for basin-scale seasonal forcing. It is suggested that, at least on seasonal time scales, the so-called bottom pressure torque can be an important term in the depth-integrated vorticity balance. An interaction of these relatively strong flows (of nontidal origin) with bottom topography may contribute to diapycnal mixing in the deep ocean in a manner similar to that proposed recently for the Southern Ocean. In addition, it is found that under a plausible climate change scenario, the amplitude of the mean annual cycle of wind stress may change. Among the regions where such changes are most pronounced is that in the extratropical North Pacific. It is shown that the data on surface wind stress can be effectively used to identify the seasons with the largest changes in the deep-reaching overturning cells. Finally, unlike what might be expected from the earlier theories, the annual-mean circulation simulated by the model with ¼° resolution has the deep interior flows that tend to group into jetlike structures, often having a predominant equatorward rather than poleward direction.

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Duo Yang and Oleg A. Saenko

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The meridional ocean heat transport (MOHT), its seasonal variability, and projected changes simulated by the second generation Canadian Earth System Model (CanESM2) are presented. The global mean MOHT is within the uncertainty of the observational estimates. However, a correct simulation of the MOHT for individual ocean basins is more challenging, and the Atlantic MOHT south of 30°N is underestimated. The partitioning of the MOHT into the overturning and gyre components is generally consistent with such partitioning in an observationally optimized ocean model. At low latitudes, the time-mean MOHT is dominated by its overturning component, whereas in the Southern Ocean and, especially, in the subpolar North Atlantic, it is the gyre component that plays a more important role. In the projected warmer climates, CanESM2 simulates a weakening of the poleward MOHT essentially in both hemispheres. The projected MOHT changes are largely determined by the overturning component, except in the subpolar Atlantic where it is dominated by the gyre component. Consistent with (the limited number of) previous studies, the seasonal variability of the MOHT is large and is mostly driven by the seasonal variability of the meridional Ekman transport. In the simulated warmer climates, the seasonal cycle of the MOHT is projected to change, mostly in the tropics and also in the Southern Hemisphere midlatitudes. The eddy contribution to the MOHT is broadly consistent with that in the observationally optimized eddy-permitting model. However, in the tropics a significant fraction of the eddy energy is converted back to the mean circulation, and the heat transports due to the parameterized and permitted eddies differ.

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Geoff J. Stanley and Oleg A. Saenko

Abstract

It has been estimated that much of the wind energy input to the ocean general circulation is removed by mesoscale eddies via baroclinic instability. While the fate of this energy remains a subject of research, arguments have been presented suggesting that a fraction of it may get transferred to lee waves that, upon breaking, result in bottom-enhanced diapycnal mixing. Here the authors propose several parameterizations of this process and explore their impact in a low-resolution ocean–climate model, focusing on their impact on the abyssal meridional overturning circulation (MOC) of Antarctic Bottom Water. This study shows that, when the eddy energy is allowed to maintain diapycnal mixing, the abyssal MOC generally intensifies with increasing wind energy input to the ocean. In such a case, the whole system is driven by the wind: wind steepens isopycnals and generates eddies, and the (parameterized) eddies generate small-scale mixing, driving the MOC. It is also demonstrated that if the model diapycnal diffusivity, eddy transfer coefficient, and surface climate are decoupled from the winds, then stronger wind stress in the Southern Ocean may lead to a weaker MOC in the abyss—in line with previous results. A simple scaling theory, describing the response of the abyssal MOC strength to wind energy input, is developed, providing a better insight on the numerical results.

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John C. Fyfe and Oleg A. Saenko

Abstract

Global climate models indicate that the poleward shift of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current observed over recent decades may have been significantly human induced. The poleward shift, along with a significant increase in the transport of water around Antarctica, is predicted to continue into the future. To appreciate the magnitude of the poleward shift it is noted that by century’s end the concomitant shrinking of the Southern Ocean is predicted to displace a volume of water close to that in the entire Arctic Ocean. A simple theory, balancing surface Ekman drift and ocean eddy mixing, explains these changes as the oceanic response to changing wind stress.

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Oleg A. Saenko, Andreas Schmittner, and Andrew J. Weaver

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Simulations with a coupled ocean–atmosphere–sea ice model are used to investigate the role of wind-driven sea ice motion on ocean ventilation. Two model experiments are analyzed in detail: one including and the other excluding wind-driven sea ice transport. Model-simulated concentrations of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) are compared with observations from the Weddell Sea, the southeastern Pacific, and the North Atlantic. The authors show that the buoyancy fluxes associated with sea ice divergence control the sites and rates of deep- and intermediate-water formation in the Southern Ocean. Divergence of sea ice along the Antarctic perimeter facilitates bottom-water formation in the Weddell and Ross Seas. Neglecting wind-driven sea ice transport results in unrealistic bottom-water formation in Drake Passage and too-strong convection along the Southern Ocean sea ice margin, whereas convection in the Weddell and Ross Seas is suppressed. The freshwater fluxes implicitly associated with sea ice export also determine the intensity of the gyre circulation and the rate of downwelling in the Weddell Sea. In the North Atlantic, the increased sea ice export from the Arctic weakens and shallows the meridional overturning cell. This results in a decreased surface flux of CFCs around 65°N by about a factor of 2. At steady state, convection in the North Atlantic is found to be less affected by the buoyancy fluxes associated with sea ice divergence when compared with that in the Southern Ocean.

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Oleg A. Saenko, Andrew J. Weaver, and Matthew H. England

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A global coupled model is used to examine pathways of freshwater transport in the Southern Ocean. On the background of a strong zonal freshwater transport along the pathway of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC), there are meridional freshwater flows distributed nonuniformly around the globe, including in the upper ocean. The analysis does not support a simple two-dimensional scheme of Antarctic Intermediate Water (AAIW) formation, according to which the fresh AAIW forms uniformly around the circumpolar ocean. Rather, a more complex three-dimensional picture of the freshwater transport in the Southern Ocean is revealed, with enhanced AAIW formation in the southeast Pacific Ocean both north and south of the Drake Passage latitudes. Freshened by intense precipitation and surface waters from around Antarctica, the ACC transports freshwater from the northwest to the southeast toward Drake Passage. There, a fraction of this freshwater is transported southward across 60°S with the subsurface ACC and the eddy-induced flow. West of the Antarctic Peninsula, the freshwater subducts to intermediate depths and turns northward, following the ACC and contributing to the formation of AAIW. This analysis supports previous results of enhanced subduction localized to the southern tip of South America.

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Paul Spence, Oleg A. Saenko, Willem Sijp, and Matthew H. England

Abstract

The North Atlantic climate response to the catastrophic drainage of proglacial Lake Agassiz into the Labrador Sea is analyzed with coarse and ocean eddy-permitting versions of a global coupled climate model. The North Atlantic climate response is qualitatively consistent in that a large-scale cooling is simulated regardless of the model resolution or region of freshwater discharge. However, the magnitude and duration of the North Atlantic climate response is found to be sensitive to model resolution and the location of freshwater forcing. In particular, the long-term entrainment of freshwater along the boundary at higher resolution and its gradual, partially eddy-driven escape into the interior leads to low-salinity anomalies persisting in the subpolar Atlantic for decades longer. As a result, the maximum decline of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) and the ocean meridional heat transport (MHT) is amplified by about a factor of 2 at ocean eddy-permitting resolution, and the recovery is delayed relative to the coarse grid model. This, in turn, increases the long-term cooling in the high-resolution simulations. A decomposition of the MHT response reveals an increased role for transients and the horizontal mean component of MHT at higher resolution. With fixed wind stress curl, it is a stronger response of bottom pressure torque to the freshwater forcing at higher resolution that leads to a larger anomaly of the depth-integrated circulation.

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