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Multimodel analysis on the response of the AMOC under an increase of radiative forcing and its symmetrical reversal

Abstract

The response of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) to an increase of radiative forcing (ramp-up) and a subsequent reversal of radiative forcing (ramp-down) is analyzed for four different global climate models. Due to changes in ocean temperature and hydrological cycle, all models show a weakening of the AMOC during the ramp-up phase. Once the external forcing is reversed, the results become model dependent. For IPSL-CM5A-LR, the AMOC continues its weakening trend for most of the ramp-down experiment. For HadGEM2-ES, the AMOC trend reverses once the external forcing also reverses, without recovering its initial value. For EC-EARTH and MPI-ESM-LR the recovery is anomalously strong yielding an AMOC overshoot. A robust linear dependency can be established between AMOC and density difference between North Atlantic (NA) deep water formation region and South Atlantic (SA). In particular, AMOC evolution is primarily controlled by a meridional salinity contrast between these regions. During the warming scenario, the subtropical Atlantic becomes saltier while the NA experiences a net freshening which favours an AMOC weakening. The different behaviour in the models during the ramp-down is dependent on the response of the ocean at the boundaries of NA and SA. The way in which the positive salinity anomaly stored in the subtropical Atlantic during the ramp-up is subsequently released elsewhere, characterizes the recovery. An out-of-phase response of the salinity transport at \(48^{\circ }\hbox {N}\) and \(34^{\circ }\hbox {S}\) boundaries is able to control the meridional density contrast between NA and SA during the transient experiments. Such a non-synchronized response is mainly controlled by changes in gyre salinity transport rather than by changes in overturning transport, thus suggesting a small role of the salt advection feedback in the evolution of the AMOC.

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Acknowledgments

This research was supported by the Embrace Project, European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for Research Number 282672. For helping to conduct the MPI-ESM ramp-down simulation, we thank Johann Jungclaus and Nils Fischer from MPI-M as well as Joerg Wegner from the German Climate Computing Centre. The authors wish also to acknowledge Jelle van den Berk from KNMI for his support in sorting and archiving EC-EARTH data. We are grateful to two anonymous reviewers for their precious comments.

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Correspondence to Giovanni Sgubin.

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Sgubin, G., Swingedouw, D., Drijfhout, S. et al. Multimodel analysis on the response of the AMOC under an increase of radiative forcing and its symmetrical reversal. Clim Dyn 45, 1429–1450 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00382-014-2391-2

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00382-014-2391-2

Keywords

  • Climate modelling
  • Global warming
  • Atlantic meridional overturning circulation
  • AMOC stability
  • Salt advection feedback
  • Reversibility