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Multiple regimes and low-frequency variability in the quasi-adiabatic overturning circulation

TitleMultiple regimes and low-frequency variability in the quasi-adiabatic overturning circulation
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsWolfe CL, Cessi P
JournalJournal of Physical Oceanography
Date Published2015/06
Type of ArticleArticle
ISBN Number0022-3670
Accession NumberWOS:000356227700013
Keywordsatlantic-ocean; Atm; boundary-conditions; circulation; Climate variability; Climatology; decadal variability; dynamics; equilibria; general-circulation; interdecadal variability; Meridional overturning circulation; model; Models and modeling; ocean; ocean models; Oceanic variability; Phenomena; Physical Meteorology and; salinity; stability; structure; thermohaline circulation; thermohaline ocean circulation; transports; variability

When interior mixing is weak, the ocean can support an interhemispheric overturning circulation on isopycnals that outcrop in both the Northern Hemisphere and a high-latitude southern circumpolar channel. This overturning cell participates in a salt-advection feedback that counteracts the precipitation-induced surface freshening of the northern high latitudes. The net result is an increase in the range of isopycnals shared between the two hemispheres, which strengthens the overturning circulation. However, if precipitation in the Northern Hemisphere sufficiently exceeds that in the Southern Hemisphere, the overturning cell collapses and is replaced by a cell circulating in the opposite direction, whose southern end point is equatorward of the channel. This reversed cell is shallower and weaker than its forward counterpart and is maintained diffusively. For a limited range of parameters, freshwater hysteresis occurs and multiple overturning regimes are found for the same forcing. These multiple regimes are, by definition, unstable with regard to finite-amplitude disturbances, since a sufficiently large perturbation can affect a transition from one regime to the other. Both overturning regimes show pronounced, nearly periodic thermohaline variability on multidecadal and multicentennial time scales. The multidecadal oscillation is expressed in the North Hemisphere gyre and driven by a surface thermohaline instability. The multicentennial oscillation has the character of an interhemispheric loop oscillation. These oscillations mediate transitions between overturning regimes by providing an internal source of finite-amplitude disturbances. As the diffusivity is reduced, the reverse cell becomes weaker and thus less stable to a given perturbation amplitude. This causes the width of the hysteresis to decrease with decreasing diffusivity.

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