, Volume 32, Issue 2-3, pp 273-285
Date: 22 Sep 2008

Response of the North Atlantic subpolar gyre to persistent North Atlantic oscillation like forcing

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Abstract

The response of the North Atlantic subpolar gyre (SPG) to a persistent positive (or negative) phase of the North Atlantic oscillation (NAO) is investigated using an ocean general circulation model forced with idealized atmospheric reanalysis fields. The integrations are analyzed with reference to a base-line integration for which the model is forced with idealized fields representing a neutral state of the NAO. In the positive NAO case, the results suggest that the well-known cooling and strengthening of the SPG are, after about 10 years, replaced by a warming and subsequent weakening of the SPG. The latter changes are caused by the advection of warm water from the subtropical gyre (STG) region, driven by a spin-up of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) and the effect of an anomalous wind stress curl in the northeastern North Atlantic, which counteracts the local buoyancy forcing of the SPG. In the negative NAO case, however, the SPG response does not involve a sign reversal, but rather shows a gradual weakening throughout the integration. The asymmetric SPG-response to the sign of persistent NAO-like forcing and the different time scales involved demonstrate strong non-linearity in the North Atlantic Ocean circulation response to atmospheric forcing. The latter finding indicates that analysis based on the arithmetic difference between the two NAO-states, e.g. NAO+ minus NAO−, may hide important aspects of the ocean response to atmospheric forcing.