skip to main content

Attention:

The NSF Public Access Repository (NSF-PAR) system and access will be unavailable from 5:00 PM ET until 11:00 PM ET on Friday, June 21 due to maintenance. We apologize for the inconvenience.


Title: Teleconnection between the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation and Sea Level in the Mediterranean Sea
The Mediterranean Sea can be viewed as a “barometer” of the North Atlantic Ocean, because its sea level responds to oceanic-gyre-scale changes in atmospheric pressure and wind forcing, related to the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). The climate of the North Atlantic is influenced by the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) as it transports heat from the South Atlantic toward the subpolar North Atlantic. This study reports on a teleconnection between the AMOC transport measured at 26.5°N and the Mediterranean Sea level during 2004–17: a reduced/increased AMOC transport is associated with a higher/lower sea level in the Mediterranean. Processes responsible for this teleconnection are analyzed in detail using available satellite and in situ observations and an atmospheric reanalysis. First, it is shown that on monthly to interannual time scales the AMOC and sea level are both driven by similar NAO-like atmospheric circulation patterns. During a positive/negative NAO state, stronger/weaker trade winds (i) drive northward/southward anomalies of Ekman transport across 26.5°N that directly affect the AMOC and (ii) are associated with westward/eastward winds over the Strait of Gibraltar that force water to flow out of/into the Mediterranean Sea and thus change its average sea level. Second, it is demonstrated that interannual changes in the AMOC transport can lead to thermosteric sea level anomalies near the North Atlantic eastern boundary. These anomalies can (i) reach the Strait of Gibraltar and cause sea level changes in the Mediterranean Sea and (ii) represent a mechanism for negative feedback on the AMOC.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
1332978
NSF-PAR ID:
10208811
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ; ;
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Journal of Climate
Volume:
32
Issue:
3
ISSN:
0894-8755
Page Range / eLocation ID:
935 to 955
Format(s):
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract

    Monthly observations are used to study the relationship between the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) at 26° N and sea level (ζ) on the New England coast (northeastern United States) over nonseasonal timescales during 2004–2017. Variability inζis anticorrelated with AMOC on intraseasonal and interannual timescales. This anticorrelation reflects the stronger underlying antiphase relationship between ageostrophic Ekman‐related AMOC transports due to local zonal winds across 26° N andζchanges arising from local wind and pressure forcing along the coast. These distinct local atmospheric variations across 26° N and along coastal New England are temporally correlated with one another on account of large‐scale atmospheric teleconnection patterns. Geostrophic AMOC contributions from the Gulf Stream through the Florida Straits and upper‐mid‐ocean transport across the basin are together uncorrelated withζ. This interpretation contrasts with past studies that understoodζand AMOC as being in geostrophic balance with one another.

     
    more » « less
  2. Abstract

    In situ observation networks and reanalyses products of the state of the atmosphere and upper ocean show well-defined, large-scale patterns of coupled climate variability on time scales ranging from seasons to several decades. We summarize these phenomena and their physics, which have been revealed by analysis of observations, by experimentation with uncoupled and coupled atmosphere and ocean models with a hierarchy of complexity, and by theoretical developments. We start with a discussion of the seasonal cycle in the equatorial tropical Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, which are clearly affected by coupling between the atmosphere and the ocean. We then discuss the tropical phenomena that only exist because of the coupling between the atmosphere and the ocean: the Pacific and Atlantic meridional modes, the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) in the Pacific, and a phenomenon analogous to ENSO in the Atlantic. For ENSO, we further discuss the sources of irregularity and asymmetry between warm and cold phases of ENSO, and the response of ENSO to forcing. Fundamental to variability on all time scales in the midlatitudes of the Northern Hemisphere are preferred patterns of uncoupled atmospheric variability that exist independent of any changes in the state of the ocean, land, or distribution of sea ice. These patterns include the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), the North Pacific Oscillation (NPO), and the Pacific–North American (PNA) pattern; they are most active in wintertime, with a temporal spectrum that is nearly white. Stochastic variability in the NPO, PNA, and NAO force the ocean on days to interannual times scales by way of turbulent heat exchange and Ekman transport, and on decadal and longer time scales by way of wind stress forcing. The PNA is partially responsible for the Pacific decadal oscillation; the NAO is responsible for an analogous phenomenon in the North Atlantic subpolar gyre. In models, stochastic forcing by the NAO also gives rise to variability in the strength of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) that is partially responsible for multidecadal anomalies in the North Atlantic climate known as the Atlantic multidecadal oscillation (AMO); observations do not yet exist to adequately determine the physics of the AMO. We review the progress that has been made in the past 50 years in understanding each of these phenomena and the implications for short-term (seasonal-to-interannual) climate forecasts. We end with a brief discussion of advances of things that are on the horizon, under the rug, and over the rainbow.

     
    more » « less
  3. Marine gateways play a critical role in the exchange of water, heat, salt, and nutrients between oceans and seas. The advection of dense waters helps drive global thermohaline circulation, and because the ocean is the largest of the rapidly exchanging CO2 reservoirs, this advection also affects atmospheric carbon concentration. Changes in gateway geometry can therefore significantly alter both the pattern of global ocean circulation and associated heat transport and climate, as well as having a profound local impact. Today, the volume of dense water supplied by Atlantic–Mediterranean exchange through the Gibraltar Strait is amongst the largest in the global ocean. For the past 5 My, this overflow has generated a saline plume at intermediate depths in the Atlantic that deposits distinctive contouritic sediments in the Gulf of Cadiz and contributes to the formation of North Atlantic Deep Water. This single gateway configuration only developed in the early Pliocene, however. During the Miocene, a wide, open seaway linking the Mediterranean and Atlantic evolved into two narrow corridors: one in northern Morocco, the other in southern Spain. Formation of these corridors permitted Mediterranean salinity to rise and a new, distinct, dense water mass to form and overspill into the Atlantic for the first time. Further restriction and closure of these connections resulted in extreme salinity fluctuations in the Mediterranean, leading to the formation of the Messinian Salinity Crisis salt giant. Investigating Miocene Mediterranean–Atlantic Gateway Exchange (IMMAGE) is an amphibious drilling proposal designed to recover a complete record of Atlantic–Mediterranean exchange from its Late Miocene inception to its current configuration. This will be achieved by targeting Miocene offshore sediments on either side of the Gibraltar Strait during International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) Expedition 401 and recovering Miocene core from the two precursor connections now exposed on land with future International Continental Scientific Drilling Program (ICDP) campaigns. The scientific aims of IMMAGE are to constrain quantitatively the consequences for ocean circulation and global climate of the inception of Atlantic–Mediterranean exchange, to explore the mechanisms for high-amplitude environmental change in marginal marine systems, and to test physical oceanographic hypotheses for extreme high-density overflow dynamics that do not exist in the world today on this scale. 
    more » « less
  4. Abstract The latitudinal structure of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) variability in the North Atlantic is investigated using numerical results from three ocean circulation simulations over the past four to five decades. We show that AMOC variability south of the Labrador Sea (53°N) to 25°N can be decomposed into a latitudinally coherent component and a gyre-opposing component. The latitudinally coherent component contains both decadal and interannual variabilities. The coherent decadal AMOC variability originates in the subpolar region and is reflected by the zonal density gradient in that basin. It is further shown to be linked to persistent North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) conditions in all three models. The interannual AMOC variability contained in the latitudinally coherent component is shown to be driven by westerlies in the transition region between the subpolar and the subtropical gyre (40°–50°N), through significant responses in Ekman transport. Finally, the gyre-opposing component principally varies on interannual time scales and responds to local wind variability related to the annual NAO. The contribution of these components to the total AMOC variability is latitude-dependent: 1) in the subpolar region, all models show that the latitudinally coherent component dominates AMOC variability on interannual to decadal time scales, with little contribution from the gyre-opposing component, and 2) in the subtropical region, the gyre-opposing component explains a majority of the interannual AMOC variability in two models, while in the other model, the contributions from the coherent and the gyre-opposing components are comparable. These results provide a quantitative decomposition of AMOC variability across latitudes and shed light on the linkage between different AMOC variability components and atmospheric forcing mechanisms. 
    more » « less
  5. Continuous measurements of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) and meridional ocean heat transport at 26.5° N began in April 2004 and are currently available through December 2020. Approximately 90% of the total meridional heat transport (MHT) at 26.5° N is carried by the zonally averaged overturning circulation, and an even larger fraction of the heat transport variability (approx. 95%) is explained by the variability of the zonally averaged overturning. A physically based separation of the heat transport into large-scale AMOC, gyre and shallow wind-driven overturning components remains challenging and requires new investigations and approaches. We review the major interannual changes in the AMOC and MHT that have occurred over the nearly two decades of available observations and their documented impacts on North Atlantic heat content. Changes in the flow-weighted temperature of the Florida Current (Gulf Stream) over the past two decades are now taken into account in the estimates of MHT, and have led to an increased heat transport relative to the AMOC strength in recent years. Estimates of the MHT at 26.5° N from coupled models and various surface flux datasets still tend to show low biases relative to the observations, but indirect estimates based on residual methods (top of atmosphere net radiative flux minus atmospheric energy divergence) have shown recent promise in reproducing the heat transport and its interannual variability.This article is part of a discussion meeting issue ‘Atlantic overturning: new observations and challenges’. 
    more » « less