388 research outputs found

    Abrupt climate change and thermohaline circulation: Mechanisms and predictability

    No full text
    The ocean's thermohaline circulation has long been recognized as potentially unstable and has consequently been invoked as a potential cause of abrupt climate change on all timescales of decades and longer. However, fundamental aspects of thermohaline circulation changes remain poorly understood

    A simple and self-consistent geostrophic-force-balance model of the thermohaline circulation with boundary mixing

    Get PDF
    A simple model of the thermohaline circulation (THC) is formulated, with the objective to represent explicitly the geostrophic force balance of the basinwide THC. The model comprises advective-diffusive density balances in two meridional-vertical planes located at the eastern and the western walls of a hemispheric sector basin. Boundary mixing constrains vertical motion to lateral boundary layers along these walls. Interior, along-boundary, and zonally integrated meridional flows are in thermal-wind balance. Rossby waves and the absence of interior mixing render isopycnals zonally flat except near the western boundary, constraining meridional flow to the western boundary layer. The model is forced by a prescribed meridional surface density profile. This two-plane model reproduces both steady-state density and steady-state THC structures of a primitive-equation model. The solution shows narrow deep sinking at the eastern high latitudes, distributed upwelling at both boundaries, and a western boundary current with poleward surface and equatorward deep flow. The overturning strength has a 2/3-power-law dependence on vertical diffusivity and a 1/3-power-law dependence on the imposed meridional surface density difference. Convective mixing plays an essential role in the two-plane model, ensuring that deep sinking is located at high latitudes. This role of convective mixing is consistent with that in three-dimensional models and marks a sharp contrast with previous two-dimensional models. Overall, the two-plane model reproduces crucial features of the THC as simulated in simple-geometry three-dimensional models. At the same time, the model self-consistently makes quantitative a conceptual picture of the three-dimensional THC that hitherto has been expressed either purely qualitatively or not self-consistently.Studienstiftung des deutschen Volke

    Inferring meridional mass and heat transports of the Indian Ocean by fitting a general circulation model to climatological data

    No full text
    The meridional overturning and heat transport of the Indian Ocean are studied by fitting the steady state dynamics of a general circulation model (GCM) to climatological annual mean temperatures, salinities, and surface forcings using the GCM and its adjoint. By estimating target temperatures and salinities near the artificially closed side boundaries as part of the optimization procedure, a steady solution that is consistent with climatological data within limits of observational errors is found. The resultant meridional overturning is vigorous (14 Sv; 1 Sv=106 m3/s) only in the upper 1000 m. The estimated deep inflow entering the Indian Ocean from the south is weak. Requiring a large net northward inflow at depth does not result in strong interior upwelling but leads to unrealistically large baroclinic mass exchange and implied vertical mixing near the Indonesian throughflow region. The shallow overturning is the main carrier of the southward heat transport, which has a maximum of 0.8 PW (1 PW=1015 W) near 150S. Wind forcing plays a key role in driving the estimated overturning of the Indian Ocean. This result is in disagreement with previous interpretations about the central role of surface heat flux in driving a vigorous deep overturning of the Indian Ocean

    The transition from the present-day climate to a modern Snowball Earth

    Get PDF
    We use the coupled atmosphere–ocean general circulation model ECHAM5/MPI-OM to investigate the transition from the present-day climate to a modern Snowball Earth, defined as the Earth in modern geography with complete sea-ice cover. Starting from the present-day climate and applying an abrupt decrease of total solar irradiance (TSI) we find that the critical TSI marking the Snowball Earth bifurcation point is between 91 and 94% of the present-day TSI. The Snowball Earth bifurcation point as well as the transition times are well reproduced by a zero-dimensional energy balance model of the mean ocean potential temperature. During the transition, the asymmetric distribution of continents between the Northern and Southern Hemisphere causes heat transports toward the more water-covered Southern Hemisphere. This is accompanied by an intensification of the southern Hadley cell and the wind-driven subtropical ocean cells by a factor of 4. If we set back TSI to 100% shortly before the transition to a modern Snowball Earth is completed, a narrow band of open equatorial water is sufficient for rapid melting. This implies that for 100% TSI the point of unstoppable glaciation separating partial from complete sea-ice cover is much closer to complete sea-ice cover than in classical energy balance models. Stable states can have no greater than 56.6% sea-ice cover implying that ECHAM5/MPI-OM does not exhibit stable states with near-complete sea-ice cover but open equatorial waters

    Forcing, feedback and internal variability in global temperature trends

    Get PDF
    Most present-generation climate models simulate an increase in global-mean surface temperature (GMST) since 1998, whereas observations suggest a warming hiatus. It is unclear to what extent this mismatch is caused by incorrect model forcing, by incorrect model response to forcing or by random factors. Here we analyse simulations and observations of GMST from 1900 to 2012, and show that the distribution of simulated 15-year trends shows no systematic bias against the observations. Using a multiple regression approach that is physically motivated by surface energy balance, we isolate the impact of radiative forcing, climate feedback and ocean heat uptake on GMST—with the regression residual interpreted as internal variability—and assess all possible 15- and 62-year trends. The differences between simulated and observed trends are dominated by random internal variability over the shorter timescale and by variations in the radiative forcings used to drive models over the longer timescale. For either trend length, spread in simulated climate feedback leaves no traceable imprint on GMST trends or, consequently, on the difference between simulations and observations. The claim that climate models systematically overestimate the response to radiative forcing from increasing greenhouse gas concentrations therefore seems to be unfounded

    Climate and ocean circulation in the aftermath of a Marinoan snowball Earth

    Get PDF
    When a snowball Earth deglaciates through a very high atmospheric CO(2 )concentration, the resulting inflow of freshwater leads to a stably stratified ocean, and the strong greenhouse conditions drive the climate into a very warm state. Here, we use a coupled atmosphere-ocean general circulation model, applying different scenarios for the evolution of atmospheric CO2, to conduct the first simulation of the climate and the three-dimensional ocean circulation in the aftermath of the Marinoan snowball Earth. The simulations show that the strong freshwater stratification breaks up on a timescale of the order of 10(3) years, mostly independent of the applied CO2 scenario. This is driven by the upwelling of salty waters in high latitudes, mainly the Northern Hemisphere, where a strong circumpolar current dominates the circulation. In the warmest CO2 scenario, the simulated Marinoan supergreenhouse climate reaches a global mean surface temperature of about 30 degrees C under an atmospheric CO2 concentration of 15 x 10(3) parts per million by volume, which is a moderate temperature compared to previous estimates. Consequently, the thermal expansion of seawater causes a sea-level rise of only 8 m, with most of it occurring during the first 3000 years. Our results imply that the surface temperatures of that time were potentially not as threatening for early metazoa as previously assumed. Furthermore, the short destratification timescale found in this study implies that Marinoan cap dolos tones accumulated during the deglacial period, given that they were deposited under the influence of a freshwater environment

    Observations reveal external driver for Arctic sea-ice retreat

    No full text
    The very low summer extent of Arctic sea ice that has been observed in recent years is often casually interpreted as an early-warning sign of anthropogenic global warming. For examining the validity of this claim, previously IPCC model simulations have been used. Here, we focus on the available observational record to examine if this record allows us to identify either internal variability, self-acceleration, or a specific external forcing as the main driver for the observed sea-ice retreat. We find that the available observations are sufficient to virtually exclude internal variability and self-acceleration as an explanation for the observed long-term trend, clustering, and magnitude of recent sea-ice minima. Instead, the recent retreat is well described by the superposition of an externally forced linear trend and internal variability. For the externally forced trend, we find a physically plausible strong correlation only with increasing atmospheric CO2 concentration. Our results hence show that the observed evolution of Arctic sea-ice extent is consistent with the claim that virtually certainly the impact of an anthropogenic climate change is observable in Arctic sea ice already today

    Present-day and ice-covered equilibrium states in a comprehensive climate model

    Get PDF
    We show that in a comprehensive climate model both the current climate and a completely ice-covered Earth are stable states under today's total solar irradiance (TSI) and CO2 level. We employ the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology coupled atmosphere-ocean general circulation model ECHAM5/MPI-OM, at relatively high resolution (horizontally T63 in the atmosphere and 1.5 degrees in the ocean). Setting TSI to near-zero causes a transition from realistic present-day climate to a completely ice-covered state within 15 years; this state persists even when TSI re-assumes today's value. A break-up of the complete ice cover occurs with today's TSI and 100 times – but not with 10 times – today's atmospheric CO2 level. While TSI is near-zero, extremely strong meridional overturning ensues in both the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans. Our results imply that a snowball Earth is possible, in principle, with inception possibly triggered by a brief dark spell
    corecore