Original Paper

Theoretical and Applied Climatology

, Volume 114, Issue 1, pp 9-19

First online:

On the subarctic North Atlantic cooling due to global warming

  • Hyerim KimAffiliated withDepartment of Atmospheric Sciences, Yonsei University
  • , Soon-Il AnAffiliated withDepartment of Atmospheric Sciences, Yonsei University Email author 

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Various ocean reanalysis data reveal that the subarctic Atlantic sea surface temperature (SST) has been cooling during the twentieth century. A similar cooling pattern is found in the doubling CO2 experiment obtained from the CMIP3 (coupled model intercomparison project third phase) compared to the pre-industrial experiment. Here, in order to investigate the main driver of this cooling, we perform the heat budget analysis on the subarctic Atlantic upper ocean temperature. The net surface heat flux associated with the increased concentration of greenhouse gases heats the subarctic ocean surface. In the most of models, the longwave radiation, latent heat flux, and sensible heat flux exert a warming effect, and the shortwave radiation exerts a cooling effect. On the other hand, the thermal advection by the meridional current reduces the subarctic upper ocean temperature in all models. This cold advection is attributed to the weakening of the meridional overturning circulation, which is related to the reduction in the ocean surface density. In particular, greater warming of the surface air than of the sea surface results in the reduction of surface evaporation and thereby enhanced freshening of the ocean surface water, while precipitation change was smaller than evaporation change. The thermal advections by both the wind-driven Ekman current and the density-driven geostrophic current contribute to cooling in most of the models, where the heat transport by the geostrophic current tends to be larger than that by the Ekman current.