Upper ocean manifestations of a reducing meridional overturning circulation

M. D. Thomas, A. M. de Boer, D. P. Stevens, H. L. Johnson

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Most climate models predict a slowing down of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation during the 21st century. Using a 100 year climate change integration of a high resolution coupled climate model, we show that a 5.3 Sv reduction in the deep southward transport in the subtropical North Atlantic is balanced solely by a weakening of the northward surface western boundary current, and not by an increase in the southward transport integrated across the interior ocean away from the western boundary. This is consistent with Sverdrup balance holding to a good approximation outside of the western boundary region on decadal time scales, and may help to spatially constrain past and future change in the overturning circulation. The subtropical gyre weakens by 3.4 Sv over the same period due to a weakened wind stress curl. These changes combine to give a net 8.7 Sv reduction in upper western boundary transport.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberL16609
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number16
Publication statusPublished - 2012

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