Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation slowdown cooled the subtropical ocean

Stuart A. Cunningham, Christopher D. Roberts, Eleanor Frajka-Williams, William E. Johns, Will Hobbs, Matthew D. Palmer, Darren Rayner, David A. Smeed, Gerard McCarthy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

48 Scopus citations

Abstract

Observations show that the upper 2 km of the subtropical North Atlantic Ocean cooled throughout 2010 and remained cold until at least December 2011. We show that these cold anomalies are partly driven by anomalous air-sea exchange during the cold winters of 2009/2010 and 2010/2011 and, more surprisingly, by extreme interannual variability in the ocean's northward heat transport at 26.5°N. This cooling driven by the ocean's meridional heat transport affects deeper layers isolated from the atmosphere on annual timescales and water that is entrained into the winter mixed layer thus lowering winter sea surface temperatures. Here we connect, for the first time, variability in the northward heat transport carried by the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation to widespread sustained cooling of the subtropical North Atlantic, challenging the prevailing view that the ocean plays a passive role in the coupled ocean-atmosphere system on monthly-to-seasonal timescales. Key Points The upper 2 km of the subtropical North Atlantic Ocean cooled throughout 2010 Cooling driven by a 30% reduction in meridional heat transport AMOC contributes to heat content anomalies in the seasonal mixed layer

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6202-6207
Number of pages6
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Volume40
Issue number23
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 16 2013

Keywords

  • Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation
  • Atlantic Ocean heat transport
  • Atlantic subtropical gyre
  • RAPID mooring array
  • ocean heat content
  • ocean observing system

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)

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  • Cite this

    Cunningham, S. A., Roberts, C. D., Frajka-Williams, E., Johns, W. E., Hobbs, W., Palmer, M. D., Rayner, D., Smeed, D. A., & McCarthy, G. (2013). Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation slowdown cooled the subtropical ocean. Geophysical Research Letters, 40(23), 6202-6207. https://doi.org/10.1002/2013GL058464