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Journal Article

Effects of Mountains and Ice Sheets on Global Ocean Circulation


Schmittner,  Andreas
Research Group Paleo-Climatology, Dr. S. P. Harrison, Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, Max Planck Society;

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Schmittner, A., Silva, T. A. M., Fraedrich, K., Kirk, E., & Lunkeit, F. (2011). Effects of Mountains and Ice Sheets on Global Ocean Circulation. JOURNAL OF CLIMATE, 24(11), 2814-2829. doi:10.1175/2010JCLI3982.1.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0018-10D2-F
The impact of mountains and ice sheets on the large-scale circulation of the world's oceans is investigated in a series of simulations with a new coupled ocean atmosphere model [Oregon State University University of Victoria model (OSUVic)], in which the height of orography is scaled from 1.5 times the actual height (at T42 resolution) to 0 (no mountains). The results suggest that the effects of mountains and ice sheets on the buoyancy and momentum transfer from the atmosphere to the surface ocean determine the present pattern of deep ocean circulation. Higher mountains reduce water vapor transport from the Pacific and Indian Oceans into the Atlantic Ocean and contribute to increased (decreased) salinities and enhanced (reduced) deepwater formation and meridional overturning circulation in the Atlantic (Pacific). Orographic effects also lead to the observed interhemispheric asymmetry of midlatitude zonal wind stress. The presence of the Antarctic ice sheet cools winter air temperatures by more than 20 degrees C directly above the ice sheet and sets up a polar meridional overturning cell in the atmosphere. The resulting increased meridional temperature gradient strengthens midlatitude westerlies by similar to 25% and shifts them poleward by similar to 10 degrees. This leads to enhanced and poleward-shifted upwelling of deep waters in the Southern Ocean, a stronger Antarctic Circumpolar Current, increased poleward atmospheric moisture transport, and more advection of high-salinity Indian Ocean water into the South Atlantic. Thus, it is the current configuration of mountains and ice sheets on earth that determines the difference in deep-water formation between the Atlantic and the Pacific.