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Veit Lüschow, Jochem Marotzke, and Jin-Song von Storch


In this paper, the overturning responses to wind stress changes of an eddying and a non-eddying ocean are compared. Differences are found in the deep overturning cell in the low-latitude North Atlantic with substantial implications for the deep western boundary current (DWBC). In an ocean-only twin experiment with one eddying and one non-eddying configuration of the MPI ocean model, two different forcings are being applied: the standard NCEP forcing and the NCEP forcing with 2x surface wind stress. The response to the wind stress doubling in the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation is similar in the eddying and the non-eddying configuration, showing an increase by about 4 Sv (~25%, 1 Sv = 106 m3s−1). In contrast, the DWBC responds with a speedup in the non-eddying and a slowdown in the eddying configuration. This paper demonstrates that the DWBC slowdown in the eddying configuration is largely balanced by eddy vorticity fluxes. Because those fluxes are not resolved and also not captured by an eddy parameterization in the non-eddying configuration, such a DWBC slowdown is likely not to occur in non-eddying ocean models which therefore might not capture the whole range of overturning responses. Furthermore, evidence is provided that the balancing effect of the eddies is not a passive reaction to a remotely triggered DWBC slowdown. Instead, deep eddies which are sourced from the upper ocean provide an excess input of relative vorticity which then actively forces the DWBC mean flow to slow down.

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Veit Lüschow, Jin-Song von Storch, and Jochem Marotzke


Using a 0.1° ocean model, this paper establishes a consistent picture of the interaction of mesoscale eddy density fluxes with the geostrophic deep western boundary current (DWBC) in the Atlantic between 26°N and 20°S. Above the DWBC core (the level of maximum southward flow, ~2000-m depth), the eddies flatten isopycnals and hence decrease the potential energy of the mean flow, which agrees with their interpretation and parameterization in the Gent–McWilliams framework. Below the core, even though the eddy fluxes have a weaker magnitude, they systematically steepen isopycnals and thus feed potential energy to the mean flow, which contradicts common expectations. These two vertically separated eddy regimes are found through an analysis of the eddy density flux divergence in stream-following coordinates. In addition, pathways of potential energy in terms of the Lorenz energy cycle reveal this regime shift. The twofold eddy effect on density is balanced by an overturning in the plane normal to the DWBC. Its direction is clockwise (with upwelling close to the shore and downwelling further offshore) north of the equator. In agreement with the sign change in the Coriolis parameter, the overturning changes direction to anticlockwise south of the equator. Within the domain covered in this study, except in a narrow band around the equator, this scenario is robust along the DWBC.

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