Can the boundary profiles at 26ºN be used to extract buoyancy-forced Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation signals?


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Polo Sánchez, Irene and Haines, Keith and Robson, Jon and Thomas, Christopher (2020) Can the boundary profiles at 26ºN be used to extract buoyancy-forced Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation signals? Ocean science, 16 (5). pp. 1067-1088. ISSN 1812-0784

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The temporal variability of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) is driven both by direct wind stresses and by the buoyancy-driven formation of North Atlantic Deep Water over the Labrador Sea and Nordic Seas. In many models, low-frequency density variability down the western boundary of the Atlantic basin is linked to changes in the buoyancy forcing over the Atlantic subpolar gyre (SPG) region, and this is found to explain part of the geostrophic AMOC variability at 26◦ N. In this study, using different experiments with an ocean general circulation model (OGCM), we develop statistical methods to identify characteristic vertical density profiles at 26◦ N at the western and eastern boundaries, which relate to the buoyancy-forced AMOC. We show that density anomalies due to anomalous buoyancy forcing over the SPG propagate equatorward along the western Atlantic boundary (through 26◦ N), eastward along the Equator, and then poleward up the eastern Atlantic boundary. The timing of the density anomalies appearing at the western and eastern boundaries at 26◦ N reveals ∼ 2– 3-year lags between boundaries along deeper levels (2600– 3000 m). Record lengths of more than 26 years are required at the western boundary (WB) to allow the buoyancy-forced signals to appear as the dominant empirical orthogonal function (EOF) mode. Results suggest that the depth structure of the signals and the lagged covariances between the boundaries at 26◦ N may both provide useful information for detecting propagating signals of high-latitude origin in more complex models and potentially in the observational RAPID (Rapid Climate Change programme) array. However, time filtering may be needed, together with the continuation of the RAPID programme, in order to extend the time period.

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© Author(s) 2020. Irene Polo and Christopher Thomas have been funded for this work through NERC grant NE/M005119/1 (Natural Environment Research Council of the UK). Jon Robson is supported by the U.K. National Centre for Atmospheric Science (NCAS) via the ACSIS project, and Keith Haines is supported by NCEO (National Centre for Earth Observation) and the University of Reading. Irene Polo has been also funded by EU project PREFACE (no. 603521) and EU H2020 project TRIATLAS (no. 817578). We thank Magdalena Balmaseda for providing the NEMO model output and Martin Andrews and Pablo Ortega for providing the GC2 model output which are available from the corresponding authors. Data from the RAPID-MOC monitoring project are funded by the Natural Environment Research Council and are freely available from (last access: 1 September 2020). The observational programme is part of the UK RAPID-AMOC programme, and the full data policy is available online at: (last access: 1 September 2019). This research has mainly been supported by the NERC (Natural Environment Research Council, grant no. NE/M005119/1).

Uncontrolled Keywords:Free Kelvin wave; North-Atlantic; Interannual variability; Model; Ocean; Propagation; Climate; Mechanicsms; Patterns; Density
Subjects:Sciences > Physics > Atmospheric physics
ID Code:63051
Deposited On:19 Nov 2020 09:48
Last Modified:19 Nov 2020 11:21

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