On the driving processes of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation



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Kuhlbrodt, T. and Griesel, A. and Montoya Redondo, María Luisa and Levermann, A. and Hofmann, M. and Rahmstorf, S. (2007) On the driving processes of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation. Reviews of geophysics, 45 (1). ISSN 8755-1209

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1029/2004RG000166


Because of its relevance for the global climate the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) has been a major research focus for many years. Yet the question of which physical mechanisms ultimately drive the AMOC, in the sense of providing its energy supply, remains a matter of controversy. Here we review both observational data and model results concerning the two main candidates: vertical mixing processes in the ocean's interior and wind-induced Ekman upwelling in the Southern Ocean. In distinction to the energy source we also discuss the role of surface heat and freshwater fluxes, which influence the volume transport of the meridional overturning circulation and shape its spatial circulation pattern without actually supplying energy to the overturning itself in steady state. We conclude that both wind-driven upwelling and vertical mixing are likely contributing to driving the observed circulation. To quantify their respective contributions, future research needs to address some open questions, which we outline.

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© 2007 by the American Geophysical Union.
We are grateful to Miguel A. M. Maqueda for contributing many relevant ideas and for many discussions from which the paper has gained strongly. We are as well indebted to Andrey Ganopolski for many useful comments and suggestions that have improved this manuscript. The paper was considerably improved by the remarks of Wilbert Weijer and two anonymous reviewers. The authors appreciate the support of several funding agencies (T.K., German Federal Ministry for Education, Science and Research through the project ‘‘Integration’’; A.G. and M.H., McDonnell Foundation; M.M., Spanish Ministry for Science and Education through the Ramón y Cajal Program and project CGL2005-06097/CLI; and A.L., Gary Comer Foundation). [135] The Editor responsible for this paper was Henk Dijkstra. He thanks technical reviewer Wilbert Weijer and two anonymous reviewers.

Uncontrolled Keywords:Ocean general-circulation; Coupled climate model; Deep-water formation; Wind-energy input; Global thermohaline circulation; Resolution Antarctic model; Tracer-release experiment; North-Atlantic; Southern-ocean; Heat-transport
Subjects:Sciences > Physics > Astrophysics
Sciences > Physics > Astronomy
ID Code:37941
Deposited On:31 May 2016 14:58
Last Modified:10 Dec 2018 15:05

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