Relationship between air-sea density flux and isopycnal meridional overturning circulation in a warming climate

Myeonghee Han, Igor Kamenkovich, Timour Radko, William E. Johns

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

This study aims to explore the relationship between air-sea density flux and isopycnal meridional overturning circulation (MOC), using the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) model projections of the twenty-first-century climate. The focus is on the semiadiabatic component of MOC beneath the mixed layer; this component is described using the concept of the push-pull mode, which represents the combined effects of the adiabatic push into the deep ocean in the Northern Hemisphere and the pull out of the deep ocean in the Southern Hemisphere. The analysis based on the GFDL Climate Model version 2.1 (CM2.1) simulation demonstrates that the push-pull mode and the actual isopycnal MOC at the equator evolve similarly in the deep layers, with their maximum transports decreasing by 4-5 Sv (1 Sv ≡ 106 m3 s-1) during years 2001-2100. In particular, the push-pull mode and actual isopycnal MOC are within approximately 10% of each other at the density layers heavier than 27.55 kg m-3, where the reduction in the MOC strength is the strongest. The decrease in the push-pull mode is caused by the direct contribution of the anomalous heat, rather than freshwater, surface fluxes. The agreement between the deep push-pull mode and MOC in the values of linear trend and variability on time scales longer than a decade suggests a largely adiabatic pole-to-pole mechanism for these changes. The robustness of the main conclusions is further explored in additional model simulations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2683-2699
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Climate
Volume26
Issue number8
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2013

Keywords

  • Climate change
  • Large-scale motions
  • Meridional overturning circulation
  • Ocean circulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science

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