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Effect of increasing Arctic river runoff on the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation: a model study

Abstract

An increasing amount of freshwater has been observed to enter the Arctic Ocean from the six largest Eurasian rivers over the past several decades. The increasing trend is projected to continue in the twenty-first century according to Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 (CMIP5) coupled models. The present study found that water flux from rivers to the Arctic Ocean at the end of the century will be 1.4 times that in 1950 according to CMIP5 projection results under Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5. The effect of increasing Arctic river runoff on the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) was investigated using an ocean-ice coupled model. Results obtained from two numerical experiments show that 100, 150 and 200 years after the start of an increase in the Arctic river runoff at a rate of 0.22%/a, the AMOC will weaken by 0.6 (3%), 1.2 (7%) and 1.8 (11%) Sv. AMOC weakening is mainly caused by freshwater transported from increasing Arctic river runoff inhibiting the formation of North Atlantic Deep Water (NADW). As the AMOC weakens, the deep seawater age will become older throughout the Atlantic Basin owing to the increasing of Arctic runoff.

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Acknowledgements

The observed annual flow of Eurasian rivers are from http://www.cgd.ucar.edu/cas/catalog/surface/dai-runoff/ index.html, and the model forcing data are download from http://data1.gfdl.noaa.gov/nomads/forms/mom4/COREv2.html. The authors thank the above data providers.

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Correspondence to Qi Shu.

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Foundation item: The Project of Comprehensive Evaluation of Polar Areas on Global and Regional Climate Changes under contract No. CHINARE2016-04-04; the National Natural Science Foundation of China under contract No. 41406027; the NSFC-Shandong Joint Fund for Marine Science Research Centers under contract No. U1406404; the Basic Research Operating Funds of The First Institute of Oceanography, State Oceanic Administration of China under contract Nos 2015P03 and 2015P01.

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Shu, Q., Qiao, F., Song, Z. et al. Effect of increasing Arctic river runoff on the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation: a model study. Acta Oceanol. Sin. 36, 59–65 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13131-017-1009-z

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Keywords

  • climate change
  • Arctic river runoff
  • Atlantic meridional overturning circulation