Response of Circulation and Heat Transport in the North Atlantic to Changes in Thermohaline Forcing in Northern Latitudes: A Model Study

Döscher, Ralf, Böning, Claus W. and Herrmann, Peter (1994) Response of Circulation and Heat Transport in the North Atlantic to Changes in Thermohaline Forcing in Northern Latitudes: A Model Study Journal of Physical Oceanography, 24 . pp. 2306-2320. DOI 10.1175/1520-0485(1994)024%3C2306:ROCAHT%3E2.0.CO;2.

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To avoid an explicit simulation of the overflows across the Greenland-Scotland ridge, many models of the large-scale ocean circulation seek to include the net effect of the inflowing dense water masses by restoring temperature and salinity near the ridge to observed conditions. In this paper the authors examine the effect of different datasets for the northern restoring condition in two versions, eddy resolving and non-eddy resolving, of the model of the North and equatorial Atlantic that has been developed in recent years as a Community Modeling Effort for WOCE. It is shown that the use of smoothed climatological fields of temperature and salinity south of the Denmark Strait leads to strong deficiencies in the simulation of the deep flow field in the basin. A switch to actual hydrographic data from the Denmark Strait ignites a rapid dynamic response throughout the North Atlantic, affecting the transport and vertical structure of the deep western boundary current and, by virtue of the JEBAR efffect, the transport of the horizontal gyres. Meridional overturning and northward heat transport too weak in the cases with climatological boundary conditions, increase to more realistic levels in the subtropical North Atlantic.

The initial response to switches in the high-latitude thermohaline forcing is mediated by fast waves along the westurn boundary, leading to changes in the deep western boundary current in low latitudes after about two years in the non-eddy-resolving cast. The initial timescale depends on the horizontal grid spacing of the model; in the high-resolution case, the first signal reaches the equator in a few months. The adjustment to a new, dynamic quasi equilibrium involves Kelvin waves along the equator and Rossby wave in the interior and is attained in less than two decades throughout the North Atlantic. It is suggested that these fast dynamic adjustment processes could play an important role in possible fluctuations of the thermohaline circulation, or transitions between different equilibrium states of the coupled ocean–atmosphere system, and may have determined the timescale of the observed climatic transitions before and during the last deglaciation.

Document Type: Article
Keywords: Response, Circulation, Heat Transport, North Atlantic, Changes, Thermohaline Forcing, Northern Latitudes, Model Study
Research affiliation: OceanRep > GEOMAR > FB1 Ocean Circulation and Climate Dynamics > FB1-TM Theory and Modeling
Refereed: Yes
DOI etc.: 10.1175/1520-0485(1994)024%3C2306:ROCAHT%3E2.0.CO;2
ISSN: 0022-3670
Date Deposited: 18 Feb 2008 17:27
Last Modified: 17 Jan 2018 10:50

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