Thermally forced transients in the thermohaline circulation
Spall, Michael A.
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KeywordCirculation/ Dynamics; Atmosphere-ocean interaction; Deep convection; Eddies; Meridional overturning circulation
The response of a convective ocean basin to variations in atmospheric temperature is explored using numerical models and theory. The results indicate that the general behavior depends strongly on the frequency at which the atmosphere changes relative to the local response time to air–sea heat flux. For high-frequency forcing, the convective region in the basin interior is essentially one-dimensional and responds to the integrated local surface heat flux anomalies. For low-frequency forcing, eddy fluxes from the boundary current into the basin interior become important and act to suppress variability forced by the atmosphere. A theory is developed to quantify this time-dependent response and its influence on various oceanic quantities. The amplitude and phase of the temperature and salinity of the convective water mass, the meridional overturning circulation, the meridional heat flux, and the air–sea heat flux predicted by the theory compare well with that diagnosed from a series of numerical model calculations in both strongly eddying and weakly eddying regimes. Linearized analytic solutions provide direct estimates of each of these quantities and demonstrate their dependence on the nondimensional numbers that characterize the domain and atmospheric forcing. These results highlight the importance of mesoscale eddies in modulating the mean and time-dependent ocean response to atmospheric variability and provide a dynamical framework with which to connect ocean observations with changes in the atmosphere and surface heat flux.
Author Posting. © American Meteorological Society, 2015. This article is posted here by permission of American Meteorological Society for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Journal of Physical Oceanography 45 (2015): 2820–2835, doi:10.1175/JPO-D-15-0101.1.
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