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Evolving relative importance of the Southern Ocean and North Atlantic in anthropogenic ocean heat uptake

TitleEvolving relative importance of the Southern Ocean and North Atlantic in anthropogenic ocean heat uptake
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsShi J.R, Xie SP, Talley LD
JournalJournal of Climate
Date Published2018/09
Type of ArticleArticle
ISBN Number0894-8755
Accession NumberWOS:000440798900001
Keywordsair-sea interaction; Anthropogenic effects; atmosphere model; budgets; climate; climate change; climate models; CMIP5 models; Coupled model; earth system model; energy imbalance; fluxes; heat; Meridional overturning circulation; Meteorology & Atmospheric Sciences; response; spatial-patterns; thermohaline circulation; transient-response

Ocean uptake of anthropogenic heat over the past 15 years has mostly occurred in the Southern Ocean, based on Argo float observations. This agrees with historical simulations from phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5), where the Southern Ocean (south of 30 degrees S) accounts for 72% +/- 28% of global heat uptake, while the contribution from the North Atlantic north of 30 degrees N is only 6%. Aerosols preferentially cool the Northern Hemisphere, and the effect on surface heat flux over the subpolar North Atlantic opposes the greenhouse gas (GHG) effect in nearly equal magnitude. This heat uptake compensation is associated with weakening (strengthening) of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) in response to GHG (aerosol) radiative forcing. Aerosols are projected to decline in the near future, reinforcing the greenhouse effect on the North Atlantic heat uptake. As a result, the Southern Ocean, which will continue to take up anthropogenic heat largely through the mean upwelling of water from depth, will be joined by increased relative contribution from the North Atlantic because of substantial AMOC slowdown in the twenty-first century. In the RCP8.5 scenario, the percentage contribution to global uptake is projected to decrease to 48% +/- 8% in the Southern Ocean and increase to 26% +/- 6% in the northern North Atlantic. Despite the large uncertainty in the magnitude of projected aerosol forcing, our results suggest that anthropogenic aerosols, given their geographic distributions and temporal trajectories, strongly influence the high-latitude ocean heat uptake and interhemispheric asymmetry through AMOC change.

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