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Journal Article

Response of the meridional overturning circulation to variable buoyancy forcing in a double hemisphere basin


Marotzke,  J.
Director’s Research Group OES, The Ocean in the Earth System, MPI for Meteorology, Max Planck Society;
C 2 - Climate Change, Predictions, and Economy, Research Area C: Climate Change and Social Dynamics, The CliSAP Cluster of Excellence, External Organizations;

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Lucas, M. A., Hirschi, J.-J.-M., & Marotzke, J. (2010). Response of the meridional overturning circulation to variable buoyancy forcing in a double hemisphere basin. Climate Dynamics, 34, 615-627. doi:10.1007/s00382-009-0704-7.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0011-F61C-B
We consider how a highly idealized double-hemisphere basin responds to a zonally constant restoring surface temperature profile that oscillates in time, with periods ranging from 0.5 to 32,000 years. In both hemispheres, the forcing is similar but can be either in phase or out of phase. The set-up is such that the Northern Hemisphere always produces the densest waters. The model's meridional overturning circulation (MOC) exhibits a strong response in both hemispheres on decadal to multi-millennial timescales. The amplitude of the oscillations reaches up to 140% of the steady-state maximum MOC and exhibits resonance-like behaviour, with a maximum at centennial to millennial forcing periods. When the forcing is in phase between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, there is a marked decrease in the amplitude of the MOC response as the forcing period is increased beyond the resonance period. In this case the resonance-like behaviour is identical to the one we found earlier in a single-hemisphere model and occurs for the same reasons. When the forcing is out of phase between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, the amplitude of the MOC response is substantially greater for long forcing periods (millennial and longer), particularly in the Southern Hemisphere. This increased MOC amplitude occurs because for an out of phase forcing, either the northern or the southern deep water source is always active, leading to generally colder bottom waters and thus greater stratification in the opposite hemisphere. This increased stratification in turn stabilises the water column and thus reduces the strength of the weaker overturning cell. The interaction of the two hemispheres leads to response timescales of the deep ocean at half the forcing period. Our results suggest a possible explanation for the half-precessional time scale observed in the deep Atlantic Ocean palaeo-temperature record.