Global Warming, Atlantic Multi-decadal Oscillation, Thermohaline Catastrophe and Their Impact on Climate of the North Atlantic Region

  • Alexander PolonskyEmail author
Conference paper
Part of the NATO Science for Peace and Security Series C: Environmental Security book series (NAPSC)


This paper presents investigation of regional and global warming, Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (quasiperiodic natural variations of the ocean-atmosphere system in the North Atlantic with typical time scales of 50–100 years) and thermohaline catastrophe (blocking of thermohaline circulation in the North Atlantic). The typical scale of the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO) is determined by the intensity of the meridional oceanic circulation in the North Atlantic. The analyzed oscillation affects various climatic characteristics: air temperature, river discharge in the European and North-American regions, the number and intensity of tropical cyclones in the Atlantic Ocean, and the parameters of mid-latitude cyclones and anticyclones in the Atlantic–European region. The main mechanism by which the AMO affects the climatic characteristics of the regions neighboring with the North Atlantic is the atmospheric response to the thermal anomalies in the ocean leading to a shift of the centers of atmospheric action and to the changes in the intensity and predominant directions of propagation of atmospheric cyclones and anticyclones. By using the results of long-term instrumental observations carried out in Eastern Europe and the data array of reconstructed temperature in the Alpine region, it is shown that the AMO is responsible for a significant part of low-frequency variations of temperature in Europe. This fact confirms the potential predictability of the regional atmospheric AMO on the decadal-scale. The rate of quasi-periodical regional warming/cooling of surface air temperature due to AMO can exceed the regional temperature rising due to global warming. So, the fast warming of the North Atlantic region during the last 3–4 decades of the twentieth century is due to coincidence of human-induced temperature increase and transition from negative to positive phase of the AMO. Realization of thermohaline catastrophe for the recent climatic epoch is unlikely.


Global warming Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation Thermohaline catastrophe 


  1. Broecker WS (2006) Was the Younger Dryas triggered by a flood? Science 312(5777):1146–1148CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Cunningham SA et al (2007) Temporal variability of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation at 26, 5N. Science 317:935CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Delworth T, Greatbatch RJ (2000) Multidecadal thermohaline circulation variability driven by atmospheric surface flux. J Climate 13(9):1489–1495CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Delworth T, Manabe S, Stouffer RJ (1996) Interdecadal variability of the thermohaline circulation in a coupled ocean–atmosphere model. J Climate 6(11):1993–2011CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Eden C, Jung T (2001) North Atlantic interdecadal variability: oceanic response to the North Atlantic Oscillation (1865–1997). J Climate 14(5):676–691CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Ellison CRW, Chapman MR, Hall IR (2006) Surface and deep ocean interactions during the cold climate event 8200 years ago. Science 312(5783):1929–1932CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Elsner JB, Tsonis AA (1994) Low-frequency oscillation. Nature 372:507–508CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Enfield D, Mestas-Nunez AM (1999) Multiscale variabilities in global SST and their relationships with tropospheric climate patterns. J Climate 12(9):2719–2733CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Griffies A, Bryan K (1997) Decadal predictability of the North Atlantic variability. Science 275(5695):181–184CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Hall MM, Bryden HL (1982) Direct estimates and mechanisms of ocean heat transport. Deep-Sea Res 29(3A):872–881Google Scholar
  11. Hatun H, Drange H, Hansen B et al (2005) Influence of the Atlantic Subpolar Gyre on the thermohaline circulation. Science 309(5742):1841–1844CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. IGBP Science series (2003) No.3:18Google Scholar
  13. IPCC4 Assessment (2007) (Topics 1 and 2): 1–14Google Scholar
  14. Kerr RA (2005) Atlantic climate pacemaker for millennia past, decades hence? Science 309(5731):41–42CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Knight J, Allan R, Folland C, Vellinga M, and Mann M, (2005) The atlantic multidecadal oscillation: a signature of thermohaline circulation cycles in observed climate. CRCES Workshop on Decadal Climate Variability, 19 October 2005Google Scholar
  16. Kushnir Y (1994) Interdecadal variations in North Atlantic Sea surface temperature and associated atmospheric conditions. J Climate 7(1):141–157CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Latif M, Roeckuer E, Mikolajewicz U, Voss R (2000) Tropical stabilization of the thermohaline circulation in a greenhouse warming simulation. J Climate 13(11):1809–1813CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Luterbacher J, Gyalistras D, Schmitz C et al (1999) Reconstruction of monthly NAO and EU indices back to AD 1675. Geophys Res Lett 26(17):2745–2748CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Manabe S, Stouffer RJ (1999) Are two modes of thermohaline circulation stable? Tellus 51A(3):400–411Google Scholar
  20. Mangini A, Spütl C, Verdes P (2005) Reconstruction of temperature in the Central Alps during the past 2000 years from a d18O stalagmite record. Earth Planet Sci Lett 235(3–4):741–751CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Polonskii AB (2001) Role of the ocean in the present-day climatic changes. Morsk Gidrofiz Zh 6:32–58Google Scholar
  22. Polonskii AB (2002) On the mechanism of decadal oscillations in the ocean–atmosphere system. Morsk Gidrofiz Zh 1:25–34Google Scholar
  23. Polonskii AB, Semiletova EP (2002) On the statistical characteristics of the North Atlantic Oscillation. Morsk Gidrofiz Zh 3:28–42Google Scholar
  24. Polonskii AB, Voskresenskaya EN (1996) Low-frequency variability of meridional drift transfers in the North Atlantic. Meteorol Gidrol 7:89–99Google Scholar
  25. Polonskii AB, Voskresenskaya EN (2004) On the statistical structure of hydrometeoro-logycal fields in the North Atlantic. Morsk Gidrofiz Zh 1:14–25Google Scholar
  26. Polonskii AB, Yu BM, Voskresenskaya EN (2007) Variability of Black Sea cyclones in the second half of the 20th century. Morsk Gidrofiz Zh 6:47–58Google Scholar
  27. Polonskii AB, Basharin DV, Voskresenskaya EN (2004) North Atlantic Oscillation: description, mechanisms, and influence on the climate of Europe. Morsk Gidrofiz Zh 2:42–59Google Scholar
  28. Polonsky AB (2001) Are we seeing human-induced warming of the deep layers in the North subtropical Atlantic. CLIVAR Exchanges 6(1):17–19Google Scholar
  29. Polonsky AB, Krasheninnikova SB (2007) Meridional heat transport in the North Atlantic and its tendencies in the second half of XX century. Morsk Gidrofiz Zh 1:39–52Google Scholar
  30. Raa L, Dijkstra HA, Gerrits J (2004) Identification of the mechanism of interdecadal variability in the North Atlantic Ocean. J Phys Oceanogr 34(12):2792–2807CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Rumstorf S (1995) Bifurcations of the Atlantic thermohaline circulation in response to changes in the hydrological cycle. Nature 376:145–149CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Schlesinger ME, Ramankutty N (1994) An oscillation in the global climate system of period 65–70 years. Nature 367:161–164CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Stommel H (1961) Thermohaline convection with two stable regimes of flow. Tellus 13(2):224–230CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Storch H et al (2004) Reconstructing past climate from noisy data. Science 306(5696):679–682. 60 years of Station Mike (2000). NorwayCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Marine Climate Research, Marine Hydrophisical Institute of NationalAcademy of Sciences of UkraineSevastopolUkraine

Personalised recommendations