The importance of planetary rotation period for ocean heat transport

Jodie Cullum, David Stevens, Manoj Joshi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)
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The climate, and hence potential habitability, of a planet crucially depends on how its atmospheric and oceanic circulation transports heat from warmer to cooler regions. However, previous studies of planetary climate have concentrated on modelling the dynamics of their atmospheres whilst dramatically simplifying the treatment of the oceans, which neglects or misrepresents the effect of the ocean in the total heat transport. Even the majority of studies with a dynamic ocean have used a simple so-called aquaplanet having no continental barriers, which is a configuration which dramatically changes the oceanic dynamics. Here the significance of the response of poleward ocean heat transport to planetary rotation period is shown with a simple meridional barrier – the simplest representation of any continental configuration. The poleward ocean heat transport increases significantly as the planetary rotation period is increased. The peak heat transport more than doubles when the rotation period is increased by a factor of ten. There are also significant changes to ocean temperature at depth, with implications for the carbon cycle. There is strong agreement between the model results and a scale analysis of the governing equations. This result highlights the importance of both planetary rotation period and the ocean circulation when considering planetary habitability.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)645-650
Number of pages6
Issue number8
Early online date21 Jul 2014
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2014

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