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Papers on changes in Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation

Posted by Ari Jokimäki on April 12, 2018

This is a list of papers on changes in Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation. The list is not complete, and will most likely be updated in future in order to make it more thorough and more representative.

Current Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation weakest in last millennium – Caesar et al. (2021). [FULL TEXT]
Abstract: The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC)—one of Earth’s major ocean circulation systems—redistributes heat on our planet and has a major impact on climate. Here, we compare a variety of published proxy records to reconstruct the evolution of the AMOC since about AD 400. A fairly consistent picture of the AMOC emerges: after a long and relatively stable period, there was an initial weakening starting in the nineteenth century, followed by a second, more rapid, decline in the mid-twentieth century, leading to the weakest state of the AMOC occurring in recent decades.
Citation: Caesar, L., McCarthy, G.D., Thornalley, D.J.R. et al. Current Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation weakest in last millennium. Nat. Geosci. 14, 118–120 (2021).

A stable Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation in a changing North Atlantic Ocean since the 1990s – Fu et al. (2020). [FULL TEXT]
Abstract: The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) is crucially important to global climate. Model simulations suggest that the AMOC may have been weakening over decades. However, existing array-based AMOC observations are not long enough to capture multidecadal changes. Here, we use repeated hydrographic sections in the subtropical and subpolar North Atlantic, combined with an inverse model constrained using satellite altimetry, to jointly analyze AMOC and hydrographic changes over the past three decades. We show that the AMOC state in the past decade is not distinctly different from that in the 1990s in the North Atlantic, with a remarkably stable partition of the subpolar overturning occurring prominently in the eastern basins rather than in the Labrador Sea. In contrast, profound hydrographic and oxygen changes, particularly in the subpolar North Atlantic, are observed over the same period, suggesting a much higher decoupling between the AMOC and ocean interior property fields than previously thought.
Citation: Yao Fu, Feili Li, Johannes Karstensen, Chunzai Wang (2020). Science Advances 6(48):eabc7836. DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abc7836.

Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation: Observed Transport and Variability – Frajka-Williams et al. (2019). [FULL TEXT]
Abstract: The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) extends from the Southern Ocean to the northern North Atlantic, transporting heat northwards throughout the South and North Atlantic, and sinking carbon and nutrients into the deep ocean. Climate models indicate that changes to the AMOC both herald and drive climate shifts. Intensive trans-basin AMOC observational systems have been put in place to continuously monitor meridional volume transport variability, and in some cases, heat, freshwater and carbon transport. These observational programs have been used to diagnose the magnitude and origins of transport variability, and to investigate impacts of variability on essential climate variables such as sea surface temperature, ocean heat content and coastal sea level. AMOC observing approaches vary between the different systems, ranging from trans-basin arrays (OSNAP, RAPID 26°N, 11°S, SAMBA 34.5°S) to arrays concentrating on western boundaries (e.g., RAPID WAVE, MOVE 16°N). In this paper, we outline the different approaches (aims, strengths and limitations) and summarize the key results to date. We also discuss alternate approaches for capturing AMOC variability including direct estimates (e.g., using sea level, bottom pressure, and hydrography from autonomous profiling floats), indirect estimates applying budgetary approaches, state estimates or ocean reanalyses, and proxies. Based on the existing observations and their results, and the potential of new observational and formal synthesis approaches, we make suggestions as to how to evaluate a comprehensive, future-proof observational network of the AMOC to deepen our understanding of the AMOC and its role in global climate.
Citation: Frajka-Williams Eleanor, Ansorge Isabelle J., Baehr Johanna, Bryden Harry L., Chidichimo Maria Paz, et al. (2019). Frontiers in Marine Science 6:260. DOI=10.3389/fmars.2019.00260.

Stability of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation: A Review and Synthesis – Weijer et al. (2019). [FULL TEXT]
Abstract: The notion that the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) can have more than one stable equilibrium emerged in the 1980s as a powerful hypothesis to explain rapid climate variability during the Pleistocene. Ever since, the idea that a temporary perturbation of the AMOC—or a permanent change in its forcing—could trigger an irreversible collapse has remained a reason for concern. Here we review literature on the equilibrium stability of the AMOC and present a synthesis that puts our understanding of past and future AMOC behavior in a unifying framework. This framework is based on concepts from Dynamical Systems Theory, which has proven to be an important tool in interpreting a wide range of model behavior. We conclude that it cannot be ruled out that the AMOC in our current climate is in, or close to, a regime of multiple equilibria. But there is considerable uncertainty in the location of stability thresholds with respect to our current climate state, so we have no credible indications of where our present-day AMOC is located with respect to thresholds. We conclude by identifying gaps in our knowledge and proposing possible ways forward to address these gaps.
Citation: Weijer, W.Cheng, W.Drijfhout, S. S.Federov, A.V.Hu, A.Jackson, L. C., et al. (2019). Stability of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation: A review and synthesis. Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, 1245336– 5375

Observed fingerprint of a weakening Atlantic Ocean overturning circulation – Caesar et al. (2018) [FULL TEXT]
Abstract: The Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC)—a system of ocean currents in the North Atlantic—has a major impact on climate, yet its evolution during the industrial era is poorly known owing to a lack of direct current measurements. Here we provide evidence for a weakening of the AMOC by about 3 ± 1 sverdrups (around 15 per cent) since the mid-twentieth century. This weakening is revealed by a characteristic spatial and seasonal sea-surface temperature ‘fingerprint’—consisting of a pattern of cooling in the subpolar Atlantic Ocean and warming in the Gulf Stream region—and is calibrated through an ensemble of model simulations from the CMIP5 project. We find this fingerprint both in a high-resolution climate model in response to increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, and in the temperature trends observed since the late nineteenth century. The pattern can be explained by a slowdown in the AMOC and reduced northward heat transport, as well as an associated northward shift of the Gulf Stream. Comparisons with recent direct measurements from the RAPID project and several other studies provide a consistent depiction of record-low AMOC values in recent years.
Citation: L. Caesar, S. Rahmstorf, A. Robinson, G. Feulner & V. Saba (2018) Naturevolume 556, pages191–196. doi:10.1038/s41586-018-0006-5.

Anomalously weak Labrador Sea convection and Atlantic overturning during the past 150 years – Thornalley et al. (2018) [FULL TEXT]
Abstract: The Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) is a system of ocean currents that has an essential role in Earth’s climate, redistributing heat and influencing the carbon cycle1, 2. The AMOC has been shown to be weakening in recent years1; this decline may reflect decadal-scale variability in convection in the Labrador Sea, but short observational datasets preclude a longer-term perspective on the modern state and variability of Labrador Sea convection and the AMOC1, 3,4,5. Here we provide several lines of palaeo-oceanographic evidence that Labrador Sea deep convection and the AMOC have been anomalously weak over the past 150 years or so (since the end of the Little Ice Age, LIA, approximately AD 1850) compared with the preceding 1,500 years. Our palaeoclimate reconstructions indicate that the transition occurred either as a predominantly abrupt shift towards the end of the LIA, or as a more gradual, continued decline over the past 150 years; this ambiguity probably arises from non-AMOC influences on the various proxies or from the different sensitivities of these proxies to individual components of the AMOC. We suggest that enhanced freshwater fluxes from the Arctic and Nordic seas towards the end of the LIA—sourced from melting glaciers and thickened sea ice that developed earlier in the LIA—weakened Labrador Sea convection and the AMOC. The lack of a subsequent recovery may have resulted from hysteresis or from twentieth-century melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet6. Our results suggest that recent decadal variability in Labrador Sea convection and the AMOC has occurred during an atypical, weak background state. Future work should aim to constrain the roles of internal climate variability and early anthropogenic forcing in the AMOC weakening described here.
Citation: David J. R. Thornalley, Delia W. Oppo, Pablo Ortega, Jon I. Robson, Chris M. Brierley, Renee Davis, Ian R. Hall, Paola Moffa-Sanchez, Neil L. Rose, Peter T. Spooner, Igor Yashayaev & Lloyd D. Keigwin (2018) Nature, volume 556, pages 227–230. doi:10.1038/s41586-018-0007-4.

Multi-centennial variability of the AMOC over the Holocene: A new reconstruction based on multiple proxy-derived SST records – Ayache et al. (2018)
Abstract: The Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) is believed to have played a key role in climate variability over the Holocene, but the reconstruction of its variations remains limited by inconsistencies among different proxy records used. To circumvent this issue, we propose a new statistical method to reconstruct the AMOC variations based on multiple sources of information, i.e. 22 proxy records of annual Sea Surface Temperature (SST) compiled in the North Atlantic and covering the Holocene (HAMOC database). Our approach consists of isolating the main variability modes hidden in the Atlantic Ocean through principal component analysis (PCA) and then evaluating their link with the AMOC. To estimate the skill of our method, we use a pseudo-proxy approach applied to observational SST data covering the period 1870–2010, as well as simulations from a comprehensive climate model (IPSL-CM5A-LR) where the AMOC variations are known. In instrumental observations and most of the model simulations, the first mode of SST variations from the PCA analysis over the North Atlantic can be related with the external radiative forcing, while the second mode is reminiscent of the AMOC variability and of its signature on SST. When computed over the Holocene period using the HAMOC database, the first mode is indeed well correlated with the insolation changes, marked by a general cooling of the Northern Atlantic from 9 thousand years ago (ka). The second mode, that we consider here as a reconstruction of standardized AMOC variations following the pseudo-proxy analysis in the model simulations and in the observations, is in general agreement with a few independent reconstructions of the deep branch of the AMOC recorded in the North Atlantic. Based on this new AMOC index reconstruction, we highlight that the Early Holocene may have been associated with an AMOC enhancement, followed by a general weakening trend from around 6–7 ka up to 2 ka, in line with the major hydro-dynamical re-organization which occurred in the North Atlantic from the mid-Holocene period. We find that the late Holocene period is marked by two fluctuations, with maxima at about 4.2 and 5 ka, in line with short-term variations identified in proxy records of the velocity of the Greenland-Iceland-Scotland overflow waters..
Citation: Mohamed Ayache, Didier Swingedouw, Yannick Mary, Frédérique Eynaud, Christophe Colin (2018). Global and Planetary Change 170(November 2018):172-189.

Timescales of AMOC decline in response to fresh water forcing – Jackson & Wood (2017)
Abstract: The Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) is predicted to weaken over the coming century due to warming from greenhouse gases and increased input of fresh water into the North Atlantic, however there is considerable uncertainty as to the amount and rate of AMOC weakening. Understanding what controls the rate and timescale of AMOC weakening may help to reduce this uncertainty and hence reduce the uncertainty surrounding associated impacts. As a first step towards this we consider the timescales associated with weakening in response to idealized freshening scenarios. Here we explore timescales of AMOC weakening in response to a freshening of the North Atlantic in a suite of experiments with an eddy-permitting global climate model (GCM). When the rate of fresh water added to the North Atlantic is small (0.1 Sv; 1 Sv =1×106 m 3 /s), the timescale of AMOC weakening depends mainly on the rate of fresh water input itself and can be longer than a century. When the rate of fresh water added is large ( ≥ 0.3 Sv) however, the timescale is a few decades and is insensitive to the actual rate of fresh water input. This insensitivity is because with a greater rate of fresh water input the advective feedbacks become more important at exporting fresh anomalies, so the rate of freshening is similar. We find advective feedbacks from: an export of fresh anomalies by the mean flow; less volume import through the Bering Strait; a weakening AMOC transporting less subtropical water northwards; and anomalous subtropical circulations which amplify export of the fresh anomalies. This latter circulation change is driven itself by the presence of fresh anomalies exported from the subpolar gyre through geostrophy. This feedback has not been identified in previous model studies and when the rate of freshening is strong it is found to dominate the total export of fresh anomalies, and hence the timescale of AMOC decline. Although results may be model dependent, qualitatively similar mechanisms are also found in a single experiment with a different GCM.
Citation: Laura C. Jackson, Richard A. Wood (2017). Climate Dynamics,

Arctic sea-ice decline weakens the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation – Sévellec et al. (2017)
Abstract: The ongoing decline of Arctic sea ice exposes the ocean to anomalous surface heat and freshwater fluxes, resulting in positive buoyancy anomalies that can affect ocean circulation. In this study, we use an optimal flux perturbation framework and comprehensive climate model simulations to estimate the sensitivity of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) to such buoyancy forcing over the Arctic and globally, and more generally to sea-ice decline. It is found that on decadal timescales, flux anomalies over the subpolar North Atlantic have the largest impact on the AMOC, while on multi-decadal timescales (longer than 20 years), flux anomalies in the Arctic become more important. These positive buoyancy anomalies spread to the North Atlantic, weakening the AMOC and its poleward heat transport. Therefore, the Arctic sea-ice decline may explain the suggested slow-down of the AMOC and the ‘Warming Hole’ persisting in the subpolar North Atlantic.
Citation: Florian Sévellec, Alexey V. Fedorov & Wei Liu (2017) Nature Climate Change, volume 7, pages 604–610 (2017). doi:10.1038/nclimate3353.

Fate of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation: Strong decline under continued warming and Greenland melting – Bakker et al. (2016) [FULL TEXT]
Abstract: The most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessment report concludes that the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) could weaken substantially but is very unlikely to collapse in the 21st century. However, the assessment largely neglected Greenland Ice Sheet (GrIS) mass loss, lacked a comprehensive uncertainty analysis, and was limited to the 21st century. Here in a community effort, improved estimates of GrIS mass loss are included in multicentennial projections using eight state‐of‐the‐science climate models, and an AMOC emulator is used to provide a probabilistic uncertainty assessment. We find that GrIS melting affects AMOC projections, even though it is of secondary importance. By years 2090–2100, the AMOC weakens by 18% [−3%, −34%; 90% probability] in an intermediate greenhouse‐gas mitigation scenario and by 37% [−15%, −65%] under continued high emissions. Afterward, it stabilizes in the former but continues to decline in the latter to −74% [+4%, −100%] by 2290–2300, with a 44% likelihood of an AMOC collapse. This result suggests that an AMOC collapse can be avoided by CO2 mitigation.
Citation: Bakker, P., et al. (2016), Fate of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation: Strong decline under continued warming and Greenland melting, Geophys. Res. Lett., 43, 12,252–12,260, doi:10.1002/2016GL070457.

Exceptional twentieth-century slowdown in Atlantic Ocean overturning circulation – Rahmstorf et al. (2015) [FULL TEXT]
Abstract: Possible changes in Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) provide a key source of uncertainty regarding future climate change. Maps of temperature trends over the twentieth century show a conspicuous region of cooling in the northern Atlantic. Here we present multiple lines of evidence suggesting that this cooling may be due to a reduction in the AMOC over the twentieth century and particularly after 1970. Since 1990 the AMOC seems to have partly recovered. This time evolution is consistently suggested by an AMOC index based on sea surface temperatures, by the hemispheric temperature difference, by coral-based proxies and by oceanic measurements. We discuss a possible contribution of the melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet to the slowdown. Using a multi-proxy temperature reconstruction for the AMOC index suggests that the AMOC weakness after 1975 is an unprecedented event in the past millennium (p > 0.99). Further melting of Greenland in the coming decades could contribute to further weakening of the AMOC.
Citation: Stefan Rahmstorf, Jason E. Box, Georg Feulner, Michael E. Mann, Alexander Robinson, Scott Rutherford & Erik J. Schaffernicht (2015). Nature Climate Change volume 5, pages 475–480 (2015) doi:10.1038/nclimate2554.

Detecting changes in the transport of the Gulf Stream and the Atlantic overturning circulation from coastal sea level data: The extreme decline in 2009–2010 and estimated variations for 1935–2012 – Ezer (2015) [FULL TEXT]
Abstract: “Recent studies reported weakening in the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) and in the Gulf Stream (GS), using records of about a decade (RAPID project) or two (altimeter data). Coastal sea level records are much longer, so the possibility of detecting climatic changes in ocean circulation from sea level data is intriguing and thus been examined here. First, it is shown that variations in the AMOC transport from the RAPID project since 2004 are consistent with the flow between Bermuda and the U. S. coast derived from the Oleander measurements and from sea level difference (SLDIF). Despite apparent disagreement between recent studies on the ability of data to detect weakening in the GS flow, estimated transport changes from 3 different independent data sources agree quite well with each other on the extreme decline in transport in 2009–2010. Due to eddies and meandering, the flow representing the GS part of the Oleander line is not correlated with AMOC or with the Florida Current, only the flow across the entire Oleander line from the U.S. coast to Bermuda is correlated with climatic transport changes. Second, Empirical Mode Decomposition (EMD) analysis shows that SLDIF can detect (with lag) the portion of the variations in the AMOC transport that are associated with the Florida Current and the wind-driven Ekman transport (SLDIF-transport correlations of ~ 0.7–0.9). The SLDIF has thus been used to estimate variations in transport since 1935 and compared with AMOC obtained from reanalysis data. The significant weakening in AMOC after ~ 2000 (~ 4.5 Sv per decade) is comparable to weakening seen in the 1960s to early 1970s. Both periods of weakening AMOC, in the 1960s and 2000s, are characterized by faster than normal sea level rise along the northeastern U.S. coast, so monitoring changes in AMOC has practical implications for coastal protection.”
Citation: Tal Ezer, Detecting changes in the transport of the Gulf Stream and the Atlantic overturning circulation from coastal sea level data: The extreme decline in 2009–2010 and estimated variations for 1935–2012, Global and Planetary Change, 129, June 2015, 23–36.

Impact of Greenland orography on the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation – Davini et al. (2015)
Abstract: “We show that the absence of the Greenland ice sheet would have important consequences on the North Atlantic Ocean circulation, even without taking into account the effect of the freshwater input to the ocean from ice melting. These effects are investigated in a 600year long coupled ocean-atmosphere simulation with the high-resolution global climate model EC-Earth 3.0.1. Once a new equilibrium is established, a cooling of Eurasia and of the North Atlantic and a poleward shift of the subtropical jet are observed. These hemispheric changes are ascribed to a weakening of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) by about 12%. We attribute this slowdown to a reduction in salinity of the Arctic basin and to the related change of the mass and salt transport through the Fram Strait—a consequence of the new surface wind pattern over the lower orography. This idealized experiment illustrates the sensitivity of the AMOC to local surface winds.”
Citation: Davini, P., vonHardenberg, J., Filippi, L. and Provenzale, A. (2015), Impact of Greenland orography on the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation. Geophys. Res. Lett., 42: 871–879. doi: 10.1002/2014GL062668.

Impact of a 30% reduction in Atlantic meridional overturning during 2009–2010 – Bryden et al. (2014) [FULL TEXT]
Abstract: “The Atlantic meridional overturning circulation comprises warm upper waters flowing northward, becoming colder and denser until they form deep water in the Labrador and Nordic Seas that then returns southward through the North and South Atlantic. The ocean heat transport associated with this circulation is 1.3 PW, accounting for 25% of the maximum combined atmosphere–ocean heat transport necessary to balance the Earth’s radiation budget. We have been monitoring the circulation at 25° N since 2004. A 30% slowdown in the circulation for 14 months during 2009–2010 reduced northward ocean heat transport across 25° N by 0.4 PW and resulted in colder upper ocean waters north of 25° N and warmer waters south of 25° N. The spatial pattern of upper ocean temperature anomalies helped push the wintertime circulation 2010–2011 into record-low negative NAO (North Atlantic Oscillation) conditions with accompanying severe winter conditions over northwestern Europe. The warmer temperatures south of 25° N contributed to the high intensity hurricane season in summer 2010.”
Citation: Bryden, H. L., King, B. A., McCarthy, G. D., and McDonagh, E. L.: Impact of a 30% reduction in Atlantic meridional overturning during 2009–2010, Ocean Sci., 10, 683-691, doi:10.5194/os-10-683-2014, 2014.

On the long-term stability of Gulf Stream transport based on 20 years of direct measurements – Rossby et al. (2014)
Abstract: “In contrast to recent claims of a Gulf Stream slowdown, two decades of directly measured velocity across the current show no evidence of a decrease. Using a well-constrained definition of Gulf Stream width, the linear least square fit yields a mean surface layer transport of 1.35 × 105 m2 s−1 with a 0.13% negative trend per year. Assuming geostrophy, this corresponds to a mean cross-stream sea level difference of 1.17 m, with sea level decreasing 0.03 m over the 20 year period. This is not significant at the 95% confidence level, and it is a factor of 2–4 less than that alleged from accelerated sea level rise along the U.S. Coast north of Cape Hatteras. Part of the disparity can be traced to the spatial complexity of altimetric sea level trends over the same period.”
Citation: Rossby, T., C. N. Flagg, K. Donohue, A. Sanchez-Franks, and J. Lillibridge (2014), On the long-term stability of Gulf Stream transport based on 20 years of direct measurements, Geophys. Res. Lett., 41, 114–120, doi:10.1002/2013GL058636.

Two Modes of Gulf Stream Variability Revealed in the Last Two Decades of Satellite Altimeter Data – Pérez-Hernández & Joyce (2014) [FULL TEXT]
Abstract: “Monthly mapped sea level anomalies (MSLAs) of the NW Atlantic in the region immediately downstream of the Gulf Stream (GS) separation point reveal a leading mode in which the path shifts approximately 100 km meridionally about a nominal latitude of 39°N, producing coherent sea level anomaly (SLA) variability from 72° to 50°W. This mode can be captured by use of a simple 16-point index based on SLA data taken along the maximum of the observed variability in the region 33°–46°N and 45°–75°W. The GS shifts between 2010 and 2012 are the largest of the last decade and equal to the largest of the entire record. The second group of EOF modes of variability describes GS meanders, which propagate mainly westward interrupted by brief periods of eastward or stationary meanders. These meanders have wavelengths of approximately 400 km and can be seen in standard EOFs by spatial phase shifting of a standing meander pattern in the SLA data. The spectral properties of these modes indicate strong variability at interannual and longer periods for the first mode and periods of a few to several months for the meanders. While the former is quite similar to a previous use of the altimeter for GS path, the simple index is a useful measure of the large-scale shifts in the GS path that is quickly estimated and updated without changes in previous estimates. The time-scale separation allows a low-pass filtered 16-point index to be reflective of large-scale, coherent shifts in the GS path.”
Citation: M. Dolores Pérez-Hernández and Terrence M. Joyce, 2014: Two Modes of Gulf Stream Variability Revealed in the Last Two Decades of Satellite Altimeter Data. J. Phys. Oceanogr., 44, 149–163. doi:

Probabilistic projections of the Atlantic overturning – Schleussner et al. (2014) [FULL TEXT]
Abstract: Changes in the Atlantic overturning circulation have a strong influence on European temperatures, North American sea level and other climate phenomena worldwide. A meaningful assessment of associated societal impacts needs to be based on the full range of its possible future evolution. This requires capturing both the uncertainty in future warming pathways and the inherently long-term response of the ocean circulation. While probabilistic projections of the global mean and regional temperatures exist, process-based probabilistic assessments of large-scale dynamical systems such as the Atlantic overturning are still missing. Here we present such an assessment and find that a reduction of more than 50 % in Atlantic overturning strength by the end of the 21 s t century is within the likely range under an unmitigated climate change scenario (RCP8.5). By combining linear response functions derived from comprehensive climate simulations with the full range of possible future warming pathways, we provide probability estimates of overturning changes by the year 2100. A weakening of more than 25 % is found to be very unlikely under a climate protection scenario (RCP2.6), but likely for unmitigated climate change. The method is able to reproduce the modelled recovery caused by climatic equilibration under climate protection scenarios which provides confidence in the approach. Within this century, a reduction of the Atlantic overturning is a robust climatic phenomena that intensifies with global warming and needs to be accounted for in global adaptation strategies.
Citation: Schleussner, CF., Levermann, A. & Meinshausen, M. Climatic Change (2014) 127: 579.

Linear weakening of the AMOC in response to receding glacial ice sheets in CCSM3 – Zhu et al. (2014) [FULL TEXT]
Abstract: The transient response of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) to a deglacial ice sheet retreat is studied using the Community Climate System Model version 3 (CCSM3), with a focus on orographic effects rather than meltwater discharge. It is found that the AMOC weakens significantly (41%) in response to the deglacial ice sheet retreat. The AMOC weakening follows the decrease of the Northern Hemisphere ice sheet volume linearly, with no evidence of abrupt thresholds. A wind‐driven mechanism is proposed to explain the weakening of the AMOC: lowering the Northern Hemisphere ice sheets induces a northward shift of the westerlies, which causes a rapid eastward sea ice transport and expanded sea ice cover over the subpolar North Atlantic; this expanded sea ice insulates the ocean from heat loss and leads to suppressed deep convection and a weakened AMOC. A sea ice‐ocean positive feedback could be further established between the AMOC decrease and sea ice expansion.
Citation: Zhu, J., Z. Liu, X. Zhang, I. Eisenman, and W. Liu (2014), Linear weakening of the AMOC in response to receding glacial ice sheets in CCSM3, Geophys. Res. Lett., 41, 6252–6258, doi:10.1002/2014GL060891.

Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) in CMIP5 Models: RCP and Historical Simulations – Cheng et al. (2013) [FULL TEXT]
Abstract: The Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) simulated by 10 models from phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) for the historical (1850–2005) and future climate is examined. The historical simulations of the AMOC mean state are more closely matched to observations than those of phase 3 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP3). Similarly to CMIP3, all models predict a weakening of the AMOC in the twenty-first century, though the degree of weakening varies considerably among the models. Under the representative concentration pathway 4.5 (RCP4.5) scenario, the weakening by year 2100 is 5%–40% of the individual model’s historical mean state; under RCP8.5, the weakening increases to 15%–60% over the same period. RCP4.5 leads to the stabilization of the AMOC in the second half of the twenty-first century and a slower (then weakening rate) but steady recovery thereafter, while RCP8.5 gives rise to a continuous weakening of the AMOC throughout the twenty-first century. In the CMIP5 historical simulations, all but one model exhibit a weak downward trend [ranging from −0.1 to −1.8 Sverdrup (Sv) century−1; 1 Sv ≡ 106 m3 s−1] over the twentieth century. Additionally, the multimodel ensemble–mean AMOC exhibits multidecadal variability with a ~60-yr periodicity and a peak-to-peak amplitude of ~1 Sv; all individual models project consistently onto this multidecadal mode. This multidecadal variability is significantly correlated with similar variations in the net surface shortwave radiative flux in the North Atlantic and with surface freshwater flux variations in the subpolar latitudes. Potential drivers for the twentieth-century multimodel AMOC variability, including external climate forcing and the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), and the implication of these results on the North Atlantic SST variability are discussed.
Citation: Cheng, W., J.C. Chiang, and D. Zhang, 2013: Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) in CMIP5 Models: RCP and Historical Simulations. J. Climate, 26, 7187–7197,

Past, Present, and Future Changes in the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation – Srokosz et al. (2012) [FULL TEXT]
Abstract: “Observations and numerical modeling experiments provide evidence for links between variability in the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) and global climate patterns. Reduction in the strength of the overturning circulation is thought to have played a key role in rapid climate change in the past and may have the potential to significantly influence climate change in the future, as noted in the last two Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment reports (Houghton et al.; Solomon et al.). Both IPCC reports also highlighted the significant uncertainties that exist regarding the future behavior of the AMOC under global warming. Model results suggest that changes in the AMOC can impact surface air temperature, precipitation patterns, and sea level, particularly in areas bordering the North Atlantic, thus affecting human populations. Here, the current understanding of past, present, and future changes in the AMOC and the effects of such changes on climate are reviewed. The focus is on observations of the AMOC, how the AMOC influences climate, and in what way the AMOC is likely to change over the next few decades and the twenty-first century. The potential for decadal prediction of the AMOC is also discussed. Finally, the outstanding challenges and possible future directions for AMOC research are outlined.”
Citation: M. Srokosz, M. Baringer, H. Bryden, S. Cunningham, T. Delworth, S. Lozier, J. Marotzke, and R. Sutton, 2012: Past, Present, and Future Changes in the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation. Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 93, 1663–1676. doi:

Surface changes in the North Atlantic meridional overturning circulation during the last millennium – Wanamaker et al. (2012) [FULL TEXT]
Abstract: “Despite numerous investigations, the dynamical origins of the Medieval Climate Anomaly and the Little Ice Age remain uncertain. A major unresolved issue relating to internal climate dynamics is the mode and tempo of Atlantic meridional overturning circulation variability, and the significance of decadal-to-centennial scale changes in Atlantic meridional overturning circulation strength in regulating the climate of the last millennium. Here we use the time-constrained high-resolution local radiocarbon reservoir age offset derived from an absolutely dated annually resolved shell chronology spanning the past 1,350 years, to reconstruct changes in surface ocean circulation and climate. The water mass tracer data presented here from the North Icelandic shelf, combined with previously published data from the Arctic and subtropical Atlantic, show that surface Atlantic meridional overturning circulation dynamics likely amplified the relatively warm conditions during the Medieval Climate Anomaly and the relatively cool conditions during the Little Ice Age within the North Atlantic sector.”
Citation: Wanamaker, A., Butler, P., Scourse, J. et al. Surface changes in the North Atlantic meridional overturning circulation during the last millennium. Nat Commun 3, 899 (2012).

Northward intensification of anthropogenically forced changes in the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) – Zhang (2010) [FULL TEXT]
Abstract: Extensive modeling studies show that changes in the anthropogenic forcing due to increasing greenhouse gases might lead to a slowdown of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) in the 21st century, but the AMOC weakening estimated in most previous modeling studies is in depth space. Using a coupled ocean atmosphere model (GFDL CM2.1), this paper shows that in density space, the anthropogenically forced AMOC changes over the 21st century are intensified at northern high latitudes (nearly twice of those at lower latitudes) due to changes in the North Atlantic Deep Water (NADW) formation. In contrast, anthropogenically forced AMOC changes are much smaller in depth space at the same northern high latitudes. Hence projecting AMOC changes in depth space would lead to a significant underestimation of AMOC changes associated with changes in the NADW formation. The result suggests that monitoring AMOC changes at northern high latitudes in density space might reveal much larger signals than those at lower latitudes. The simulated AMOC changes in density space under anthropogenic forcing can not be distinguished from that induced by natural AMOC variability for at least the first 20 years of the 21st century, although the signal can be detected over a much longer period.
Citation: Zhang, R. (2010), Northward intensification of anthropogenically forced changes in the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC), Geophys. Res. Lett., 37, L24603, doi:10.1029/2010GL045054.

Response of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation to increasing atmospheric CO2: Sensitivity to mean climate state – Weaver et al. (2007) [FULL TEXT]
Abstract: The dependence on the mean climate state of the response of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) is investigated in 17 increasing greenhouse gas experiments with different initial conditions. The AMOC declines in all experiments by 15% to 31%, with typically the largest declines in those experiments with the strongest initial AMOC. In all cases, changes in surface heat fluxes, rather than changes in surface freshwater fluxes, are the dominant cause for the transient AMOC decrease. Surface freshwater fluxes actually switch from reducing the transient AMOC decrease, for low values of atmospheric CO2, to reinforcing the transient AMOC decrease, for higher values of atmospheric CO2. In addition, we find that due to changes in the strengths of feedbacks associated with water vapour and snow/sea ice, the climate sensitivity and transient climate response of the UVic model strongly depends on the mean climate state.
Citation: Bryden, H. L., King, B. A., McCarthy, G. D., and McDonagh, E. L.: Impact of a 30% reduction in Atlantic meridional overturning during 2009–2010, Ocean Sci., 10, 683-691, doi:10.5194/os-10-683-2014, 2014.

Quantifying the AMOC feedbacks during a 2×CO2 stabilization experiment with land-ice melting – Swingedouw et al. (2007) [FULL TEXT]
Abstract: The response of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) to an increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration is analyzed using the IPSL-CM4 coupled ocean–atmosphere model. Two simulations are integrated for 70 years with 1%/year increase in CO2 concentration until 2×CO2, and are then stabilized for further 430 years. The first simulation takes land-ice melting into account, via a simple parameterization, which results in a strong freshwater input of about 0.13 Sv at high latitudes in a warmer climate. During this scenario, the AMOC shuts down. A second simulation does not include this land-ice melting and herein, the AMOC recovers after 200 years. This behavior shows that this model is close to an AMOC shutdown threshold under global warming conditions, due to continuous input of land-ice melting. The analysis of the origin of density changes in the Northern Hemisphere convection sites allows an identification as to the origin of the changes in the AMOC. The processes that decrease the AMOC are the reduction of surface cooling due to the reduction in the air–sea temperature gradient as the atmosphere warms and the local freshening of convection sites that results from the increase in local freshwater forcing. Two processes also control the recovery of the AMOC: the northward advection of positive salinity anomalies from the tropics and the decrease in sea-ice transport through the Fram Strait toward the convection sites. The quantification of the AMOC related feedbacks shows that the salinity related processes contribute to a strong positive feedback, while feedback related to temperature processes is negative but remains small as there is a compensation between heat transport and surface heat flux in ocean–atmosphere coupled model. We conclude that in our model, AMOC feedbacks amplify land-ice melting perturbation by 2.5.
Citation: D. Swingedouw, P. Braconnot, P. Delecluse, E. Guilyardi, O. Marti (2007). Climate Dynamics, Volume 29, Issue 5, pp 521–534. DOI:

Will Greenland melting halt the thermohaline circulation? – Jungclaus et al. (2006) [FULL TEXT]
Abstract: Climate projections for the 21st century indicate a gradual decrease of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC). The weakening could be accelerated substantially by meltwater input from the Greenland Ice Sheet (GIS). Here we repeat recent experiments conducted for the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change, providing an idealized additional source of freshwater along Greenland’s coast. For conservative and high melting estimates, the AMOC reduction is 35% and 42%, respectively, compared to a weakening of 30% for the original A1B scenario. Even for the high meltwater estimate the AMOC recovers in the 22nd century. The impact of the additional fresh water is limited to further enhancing the static stability in the Irminger and Labrador Seas, whereas the backbone of the overturning is maintained by the overflows across the Greenland‐Scotland Ridge. Our results suggest that abrupt climate change initiated by GIS melting is not a realistic scenario for the 21st century.
Citation: Jungclaus, J. H., H. Haak, M. Esch, E. Roeckner, and J. Marotzke (2006), Will Greenland melting halt the thermohaline circulation? Geophys. Res. Lett., 33, L17708, doi:10.1029/2006GL026815.


One Response to “Papers on changes in Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation”

  1. […] For more, complete papers on this topic at AGW Observer. […]

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