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Recent contributions of theory to our understanding of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation

TitleRecent contributions of theory to our understanding of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsJohnson H.L, Cessi P, Marshall D.P, Schloesser F., Spall M.A
Date Published2019/08
Type of ArticleReview
ISBN Number2169-9275
Accession NumberWOS:000490464200003
Keywordsantarctic circumpolar current; atlantic; boundary; density variations; multiple equilibria regime; north-atlantic; oceanography; overturning circulation; southern-ocean; thermohaline circulation; tracer transports; transport; variability; water mass transformation; wind-driven

Revolutionary observational arrays, together with a new generation of ocean and climate models, have provided new and intriguing insights into the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) over the last two decades. Theoretical models have also changed our view of the AMOC, providing a dynamical framework for understanding the new observations and the results of complex models. In this paper we review recent advances in conceptual understanding of the processes maintaining the AMOC. We discuss recent theoretical models that address issues such as the interplay between surface buoyancy and wind forcing, the extent to which the AMOC is adiabatic, the importance of mesoscale eddies, the interaction between the middepth North Atlantic Deep Water cell and the abyssal Antarctic Bottom Water cell, the role of basin geometry and bathymetry, and the importance of a three-dimensional multiple-basin perspective. We review new paradigms for deep water formation in the high-latitude North Atlantic and the impact of diapycnal mixing on vertical motion in the ocean interior. And we discuss advances in our understanding of the AMOC's stability and its scaling with large-scale meridional density gradients. Along with reviewing theories for the mean AMOC, we consider models of AMOC variability and discuss what we have learned from theory about the detection and meridional propagation of AMOC anomalies. Simple theoretical models remain a vital and powerful tool for articulating our understanding of the AMOC and identifying the processes that are most critical to represent accurately in the next generation of numerical ocean and climate models.

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