Influence of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation on the Northern Hemisphere Surface Temperature Response to Radiative Forcing
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Influence of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation on the Northern Hemisphere Surface Temperature Response to Radiative Forcing

  • Published Date:

    2018

  • Source:
    J. Climate (2018) 31 (22): 9207–9224
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  • Description:
    Many modeling studies have shown that the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) will weaken under increased greenhouse gas forcing, but the influence of AMOC internal variability on climate change in the context of a large initial condition ensemble has received less attention. Here, the Community Earth System Model Large Ensemble (CESM LE) is used to separate the AMOC-forced response from AMOC internal variability, and then assess their joint influence on surface warming. Similar to other models, the CESM LE projects a weakening AMOC in response to increased greenhouse gas forcing caused by freshening and decreased buoyancy fluxes in the North Atlantic. Yet if this forced response is removed using the ensemble mean, there is a positive relationship between global surface warming and AMOC strength. In other words, when the AMOC strengthens relative to the ensemble mean (i.e., weakens less), global surface warming increases relative to the ensemble mean response. This unforced surface warming occurs in northern Eurasia and in the Nordic and Barents Seas near the sea ice edge. Comparison of CESM simulations with and without a dynamic ocean shows that the unforced surface warming in the Nordic and Barents Seas results from both ocean and atmospheric circulation variability. In contrast, this comparison suggests that AMOC-associated Eurasian warming results from atmospheric circulation variability alone. In sum, the AMOC-forced response and AMOC internal variability have distinct relationships with surface temperature. Forced AMOC weakening decreases with surface warming, while unforced AMOC strengthening leads to surface warming.
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