Effects of atmospheric dynamics and ocean resolution on bi-stability of the thermohaline circulation examined using the Grid ENabled Integrated Earth system modelling (GENIE) framework

T. M. Lenton, R. Marsh, A. R. Price, D. J. Lunt, Y. Aksenov, JD Annan, T. Cooper-Chadwick, S. J. Cox, N. R. Edwards, S. Goswami, J. C. Hargreaves, P. P. Harris, Z. Jiao, V. N. Livina, A. J. Payne, I. C. Rutt, J. G. Shepherd, P. J. Valdes, G. Williams, M. S. WilliamsonA. Yool

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)


We have used the Grid ENabled Integrated Earth system modelling (GENIE) framework to undertake a systematic search for bi-stability of the ocean thermohaline circulation (THC) for different surface grids and resolutions of 3-D ocean (GOLDSTEIN) under a 3-D dynamical atmosphere model (IGCM). A total of 407,000 years were simulated over a three month period using Grid computing. We find bi-stability of the THC despite significant, quasi-periodic variability in its strength driven by variability in the dynamical atmosphere. The position and width of the hysteresis loop depends on the choice of surface grid (longitude-latitude or equal area), but is less sensitive to changes in ocean resolution. For the same ocean resolution, the region of bi-stability is broader with the IGCM than with a simple energy-moisture balance atmosphere model (EMBM). Feedbacks involving both ocean and atmospheric dynamics are found to promote THC bi-stability. THC switch-off leads to increased import of freshwater at the southern boundary of the Atlantic associated with meridional overturning circulation. This is counteracted by decreased freshwater import associated with gyre and diffusive transports. However, these are localised such that the density gradient between North and South is reduced tending to maintain the THC off state. THC switch-off can also generate net atmospheric freshwater input to the Atlantic that tends to maintain the off state. The ocean feedbacks are present in all resolutions, across most of the bi-stable region, whereas the atmosphere feedback is strongest in the longitude–latitude grid and around the transition where the THC off state is disappearing. Here the net oceanic freshwater import due to the overturning mode weakens, promoting THC switch-on, but the atmosphere counteracts this by increasing net freshwater input. This increases the extent of THC bi-stability in this version of the model.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)591-613
Number of pages23
JournalClimate Dynamics
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2007

Cite this