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  1. High-resolution process modeling reveals a positive feedback of poleward ocean heat transport due to Antarctic ice shelf melt.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available May 3, 2024
  2. Abstract Cross-equatorial ocean heat transport (OHT) changes have been found to damp meridional shifts of the intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ) induced by hemispheric asymmetries in radiative forcing. Zonal-mean energy transport theories and idealized model simulations have suggested that these OHT changes occur primarily due to wind-driven changes in the Indo-Pacific’s shallow subtropical cells (STCs) and buoyancy-driven changes in the deep Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC). In this study we explore the partitioning between buoyancy and momentum forcing in the ocean’s response. We adjust the top-of-atmosphere solar forcing to cool the Northern Hemisphere (NH) extratropics in a novel set of comprehensive climate model simulations designed to isolate buoyancy-forced and momentum-forced changes. In this case of NH high-latitude forcing, we confirm that buoyancy-driven changes in the AMOC dominate in the Atlantic. However, in contrast with prior expectations, buoyancy-driven changes in the STCs are the primary driver of the heat transport changes in the Indo-Pacific. We find that buoyancy-forced Indo-Pacific STC changes transport nearly 4 times the amount of heat across the equator as the shallower wind-driven STC changes. This buoyancy-forced STC response arises from extratropical density perturbations that are amplified by the low cloud feedback and communicated to the tropics by themore »ventilated thermocline. While the ocean’s specific response is dependent on the forcing scheme, our results suggest that partitioning the ocean’s total response to energy perturbations into buoyancy and momentum forcing provides basin-specific insight into key aspects of how the ocean damps ITCZ migrations that previous zonal-mean frameworks omit.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available October 15, 2023
  3. Abstract The Antarctic Slope Current (ASC) plays a central role in redistributing water masses, sea ice, and tracer properties around the Antarctic margins, and in mediating cross-slope exchanges. While the ASC has historically been understood as a wind-driven circulation, recent studies have highlighted important momentum transfers due to mesoscale eddies and tidal flows. Furthermore, momentum input due to wind stress is transferred through sea ice to the ASC during most of the year, yet previous studies have typically considered the circulations of the ocean and sea ice independently. Thus, it remains unclear how the momentum input from the winds is mediated by sea ice, tidal forcing, and transient eddies in the ocean, and how the resulting momentum transfers serve to structure the ASC. In this study the dynamics of the coupled ocean–sea ice–ASC circulation are investigated using high-resolution process-oriented simulations and interpreted with the aid of a reduced-order model. In almost all simulations considered here, sea ice redistributes almost 100% of the wind stress away from the continental slope, resulting in approximately identical sea ice and ocean surface flows in the core of the ASC in a fully spun-up equilibrium state. This ice–ocean coupling results from suppression of vertical momentummore »transfer by mesoscale eddies over the continental slope, which allows the sea ice to accelerate the ocean surface flow until the speeds coincide. Tidal acceleration of the along-slope flow exaggerates this effect and may even result in ocean-to-ice momentum transfer. The implications of these findings for along- and across-slope transport of water masses and sea ice around Antarctica are discussed.« less
  4. Abstract The processes that contribute to the Arctic amplification of global surface warming are often described in the context of climate feedbacks. Previous studies have used a traditional feedback analysis framework to partition the regional surface warming into contributions from each feedback process. However, this partitioning can be complicated by interactions in the climate system. Here we focus instead on the physically intuitive approach of inactivating individual feedback processes during forced warming and evaluating the resulting change in the surface temperature field. We investigate this using a moist energy balance model with spatially varying feedbacks that are specified from comprehensive climate model results. We find that when warming is attributed to each feedback process by comparing how the climate would change if the process were not active, the water vapor feedback is the primary reason that the Arctic region warms more than the tropics, and the lapse rate feedback has a neutral effect on Arctic amplification by cooling the Arctic and the tropics by approximately equivalent amounts. These results are strikingly different from previous feedback analyses, which identified the lapse rate feedback as the largest contributor to Arctic amplification, with the water vapor feedback being the main opposing factor bymore »warming the tropics more than the Arctic region. This highlights the importance of comparing different approaches of analyzing how feedbacks contribute to warming in order to build a better understanding of how feedbacks influence climate changes.« less
  5. Abstract

    Previous studies have found that Northern Hemisphere aerosol‐like cooling induces a La Niña‐like response in the tropical Indo‐Pacific. Here, we explore how a coupled ocean‐atmosphere feedback pathway communicates and sustains this response. We override ocean surface wind stress in a comprehensive climate model to decompose the total ocean‐atmosphere response to forced extratropical cooling into the response of surface buoyancy forcing alone and surface momentum forcing alone. In the subtropics, the buoyancy‐forced response dominates: the positive low cloud feedback amplifies sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies which wind‐driven evaporative cooling communicates to the tropics. In the equatorial Indo‐Pacific, buoyancy‐forced ocean dynamics cool the surface while the Bjerknes feedback creates zonally asymmetric SST patterns. Although subtropical cloud feedbacks are model‐dependent, our results suggest this feedback pathway is robust across a suite of models such that models with a stronger subtropical low cloud response exhibit a stronger La Niña response.

  6. Abstract

    The Antarctic sea ice area expanded significantly during 1979–2015. This is at odds with state-of-the-art climate models, which typically simulate a receding Antarctic sea ice cover in response to increasing greenhouse forcing. Here, we investigate the hypothesis that this discrepancy between models and observations occurs due to simulation biases in the sea ice drift velocity. As a control we use the Community Earth System Model (CESM) Large Ensemble, which has 40 realizations of past and future climate change that all undergo Antarctic sea ice retreat during recent decades. We modify CESM to replace the simulated sea ice velocity field with a satellite-derived estimate of the observed sea ice motion, and we simulate 3 realizations of recent climate change. We find that the Antarctic sea ice expands in all 3 of these realizations, with the simulated spatial structure of the expansion bearing resemblance to observations. The results suggest that the reason CESM has failed to capture the observed Antarctic sea ice expansion is due to simulation biases in the sea ice drift velocity, implying that an improved representation of sea ice motion is crucial for more accurate sea ice projections.

  7. Abstract

    Arctic icebergs, unconstrained sea ice floes, oil slicks, mangrove drifters, lost cargo containers, and other flotsam are known to move at 2%–4% of the prevailing wind velocity relative to the water, despite vast differences in the material properties, shapes, and sizes of objects. Here, we revisit the roles of density, aspect ratio, and skin and form drag in determining how an object is driven by winds and water currents. Idealized theoretical considerations show that although substantial differences exist for end members of the parameter space (either very thin or thick and very light or dense objects), most realistic cases of floating objects drift at approximately 3% of the free-stream wind velocity (measured outside an object’s surface boundary layer) relative to the water. This relationship, known as a long-standing rule of thumb for the drift of various types of floating objects, arises from the square root of the ratio of the density of air to that of water. We support our theoretical findings with flume experiments using floating objects with a range of densities and shapes.

  8. Abstract Climate models consistently project (i) a decline in the formation of North Atlantic Deep Water (NADW) and (ii) a strengthening of the Southern Hemisphere westerly winds in response to anthropogenic greenhouse gas forcing. These two processes suggest potentially conflicting tendencies of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC): a weakening AMOC due to changes in the North Atlantic but a strengthening AMOC due to changes in the Southern Ocean. Here we focus on the transient evolution of the global ocean overturning circulation in response to a perturbation to the NADW formation rate. We propose that the adjustment of the Indo-Pacific overturning circulation is a critical component in mediating AMOC changes. Using a hierarchy of ocean and climate models, we show that the Indo-Pacific overturning circulation provides the first response to AMOC changes through wave processes, whereas the Southern Ocean overturning circulation responds on longer (centennial to millennial) time scales that are determined by eddy diffusion processes. Changes in the Indo-Pacific overturning circulation compensate AMOC changes, which allows the Southern Ocean overturning circulation to evolve independently of the AMOC, at least over time scales up to many decades. In a warming climate, the Indo-Pacific develops an overturning circulation anomaly associated withmore »the weakening AMOC that is characterized by a northward transport close to the surface and a southward transport in the deep ocean, which could effectively redistribute heat between the basins. Our results highlight the importance of interbasin exchange in the response of the global ocean overturning circulation to a changing climate.« less