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An Overlooked Problem in Model Simulations of the Thermohaline Circulation and Heat Transport in the Atlantic Ocean

Claus W. BöningInstitut für Meereskunde an der Universität Kiel, Kiel, Germany

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William R. HollandNational Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado

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Frank O. BryanNational Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado

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Gokhan DanabasogluNational Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado

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James C. McwilliamsNational Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado

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Abstract

Many models of the large-scale thermohaline circulation in the ocean exhibit strong zonally integrated upwelling in the midlatitude North Atlantic that significantly decreases the amount of deep water that is carried from the formation regions in the subpolar North Atlantic toward low latitudes and across the equator. In an analysis of results from the Community Modeling Effort using a suite of models with different horizontal resolution, wind and thermohaline forcing, and mixing parameters, it is shown that the upwelling is always concentrated in the western boundary layer between roughly 30° and 40°N. The vertical transport across 1000 m appears to be controlled by local dynamics and strongly depends on the horizontal resolution and mixing parameters of the model. It is suggested that in models with a realistic deep-water formation rate in the subpolar North Atlantic, the excessive upwelling can be considered as the prime reason for the typically too low meridional overturning rates and northward heat transports in the subtropical North Atlantic. A new isopycnal advection and mixing parameterization of tracer transports by mesoscale eddies yield substantial improvements in these integral measures of the circulation.

Abstract

Many models of the large-scale thermohaline circulation in the ocean exhibit strong zonally integrated upwelling in the midlatitude North Atlantic that significantly decreases the amount of deep water that is carried from the formation regions in the subpolar North Atlantic toward low latitudes and across the equator. In an analysis of results from the Community Modeling Effort using a suite of models with different horizontal resolution, wind and thermohaline forcing, and mixing parameters, it is shown that the upwelling is always concentrated in the western boundary layer between roughly 30° and 40°N. The vertical transport across 1000 m appears to be controlled by local dynamics and strongly depends on the horizontal resolution and mixing parameters of the model. It is suggested that in models with a realistic deep-water formation rate in the subpolar North Atlantic, the excessive upwelling can be considered as the prime reason for the typically too low meridional overturning rates and northward heat transports in the subtropical North Atlantic. A new isopycnal advection and mixing parameterization of tracer transports by mesoscale eddies yield substantial improvements in these integral measures of the circulation.

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