Sensitivity of modern climate to the presence, strength and salinity of Mediterranean-Atlantic exchange in a global general circulation model

Ivanovic, Ruza F., Valdes, Paul J., Gregoire, Lauren, Flecker, Rachel and Gutjahr, Marcus (2014) Sensitivity of modern climate to the presence, strength and salinity of Mediterranean-Atlantic exchange in a global general circulation model Climate Dynamics, 42 . pp. 859-877. DOI 10.1007/s00382-013-1680-5.

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Mediterranean Outflow Water (MOW) is thought to be a key contributor to the strength and stability of Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), but the future of Mediterranean-Atlantic water exchange is uncertain. It is chiefly dependent on the difference between Mediterranean and Atlantic temperature and salinity characteristics, and as a semi-enclosed basin, the Mediterranean is particularly vulnerable to future changes in climate and water usage. Certainly, there is strong geologic evidence that the Mediterranean underwent dramatic salinity and sea-level fluctuations in the past. Here, we use a fully coupled atmosphere–ocean General Circulation Model to examine the impact of changes in Mediterranean-Atlantic exchange on global ocean circulation and climate. Our results suggest that MOW strengthens and possibly stabilises the AMOC not through any contribution towards NADW formation, but by delivering relatively warm, saline water to southbound Atlantic currents below 800 m. However, we find almost no climate signal associated with changes in Mediterranean-Atlantic flow strength. Mediterranean salinity, on the other hand, controls MOW buoyancy in the Atlantic and therefore affects its interaction with the shallow-intermediate circulation patterns that govern surface climate. Changing Mediterranean salinity by a factor of two reorganises shallow North Atlantic circulation, resulting in regional climate anomalies in the North Atlantic, Labrador and Greenland-Iceland-Norwegian Seas of ±4 °C or more. Although such major variations in salinity are believed to have occurred in the past, they are unlikely to occur in the near future. However, our work does suggest that changes in the Mediterranean’s hydrological balance can impact global-scale climate.

Document Type: Article
Keywords: Mediterranean Outflow Water; Mediterranean salinity; North Atlantic circulation; North Atlantic climate; Atlantic Meridional Ocean Circulation (AMOC), North Atlantic Deep Water (NADW)
Research affiliation: OceanRep > GEOMAR > FB2 Marine Biogeochemistry > FB2-MG Marine Geosystems
Refereed: Yes
DOI etc.: 10.1007/s00382-013-1680-5
ISSN: 0930-7575
Date Deposited: 14 May 2013 10:21
Last Modified: 14 Sep 2016 08:20

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