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  1. Abstract

    Over the past century, the subpolar North Atlantic experienced slight cooling or suppressed warming, relative to the background positive temperature trends, often dubbed the North Atlantic warming hole (NAWH). The causes of the NAWH remain under debate. Here we conduct coupled ocean-atmosphere simulations to demonstrate that enhanced Indian Ocean warming, another salient feature of global warming, could increase local rainfall and through teleconnections strengthen surface westerly winds south of Greenland, cooling the subpolar North Atlantic. In decades to follow however, this cooling effect would gradually vanish as the Indian Ocean warming acts to strengthen the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC). We argue that the historical NAWH can potentially be explained by such atmospheric mechanisms reliant on surface wind changes, while oceanic mechanisms related to AMOC changes become more important on longer timescales. Thus, explaining the North Atlantic temperature trends and particularly the NAWH requires considering both atmospheric and oceanic mechanisms.

  2. Free, publicly-accessible full text available March 1, 2023
  3. Abstract This study compares the impacts of Arctic sea ice decline on the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) in two configurations of the Community Earth System Model (CESM) with different horizontal resolution. In a suite of model experiments we impose radiative imbalance at the ice surface, replicating a loss of sea ice cover comparable to the observed during 1979-2014, and find dramatic differences in the AMOC response between the two models. In the lower-resolution configuration, the AMOC weakens by about one third over the first 100 years, approaching a new quasi-equilibrium. By contrast, in the higher-resolution configuration, the AMOC weakens by ~10% during the first 20-30 years followed by a full recovery driven by invigorated deep water formation in the Labrador Sea and adjacent regions. We investigate these differences using a diagnostic AMOC stability indicator, which reflects the AMOC freshwater transport in and out of the basin and hence the strength of the basin-scale salt-advection feedback. This indicator suggests that the AMOC in the lower-resolution model is less stable and more sensitive to surface perturbations, as confirmed by hosing experiments mimicking Arctic freshening due to sea ice decline. Differences between the models’ mean states, including the Atlantic mean surface freshwatermore »fluxes, control the differences in AMOC stability. Our results demonstrate that the AMOC stability indicator is indeed useful for evaluating AMOC sensitivity to perturbations. Finally, we emphasize that, despite the differences in the long-term adjustment, both models simulate a multi-decadal AMOC weakening caused by Arctic sea ice decline, relevant to climate change.« less
  4. While the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) is projected to slow down under anthropogenic warming, the exact role of the AMOC in future climate change has not been fully quantified. Here, we present a method to stabilize the AMOC intensity in anthropogenic warming experiments by removing fresh water from the subpolar North Atlantic. This method enables us to isolate the AMOC climatic impacts in experiments with a full-physics climate model. Our results show that a weakened AMOC can explain ocean cooling south of Greenland that resembles the North Atlantic warming hole and a reduced Arctic sea ice loss in all seasons with a delay of about 6 years in the emergence of an ice-free Arctic in boreal summer. In the troposphere, a weakened AMOC causes an anomalous cooling band stretching from the lower levels in high latitudes to the upper levels in the tropics and displaces the Northern Hemisphere midlatitude jets poleward.
  5. We explore the mechanisms by which Arctic sea ice decline affects the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) in a suite of numerical experiments perturbing the Arctic sea ice radiative budget within a fully coupled climate model. The imposed perturbations act to increase the amount of heat available to melt ice, leading to a rapid Arctic sea ice retreat within 5 years after the perturbations are activated. In response, the AMOC gradually weakens over the next ~100 years. The AMOC changes can be explained by the accumulation in the Arctic and subsequent downstream propagation to the North Atlantic of buoyancy anomalies controlled by temperature and salinity. Initially, during the first decade or so, the Arctic sea ice loss results in anomalous positive heat and salinity fluxes in the subpolar North Atlantic, inducing positive temperature and salinity anomalies over the regions of oceanic deep convection. At first, these anomalies largely compensate one another, leading to a minimal change in upper ocean density and deep convection in the North Atlantic. Over the following years, however, more anomalous warm water accumulates in the Arctic and spreads to the North Atlantic. At the same time, freshwater that accumulates from seasonal sea ice melting over mostmore »of the upper Arctic Ocean also spreads southward, reaching as far as south of Iceland. These warm and fresh anomalies reduce upper ocean density and suppress oceanic deep convection. The thermal and haline contributions to these buoyancy anomalies, and therefore to the AMOC slowdown during this period, are found to have similar magnitudes. We also find that the related changes in horizontal wind-driven circulation could potentially push freshwater away from the deep convection areas and hence strengthen the AMOC, but this effect is overwhelmed by mean advection.

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