Publications by David Marshall

AMOC sensitivity to surface buoyancy fluxes: the role of air-sea feedback mechanisms

Climate Dynamics Springer 53 (2019) 4521-4537

Y Kostov, H Johnson, D Marshall

We interrogate the sensitivity of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) to surface heat and freshwater fluxes over the Subpolar Gyre in an ocean general circulation model and its adjoint. Surface heat loss out of the Subpolar Gyre in the winter strengthens the AMOC at a lead time of approximately 6 months. However, the same surface heat flux anomaly in the summer leads to a delayed AMOC weakening that emerges at a lag of 8 months. Under a summer surface cooling perturbation, the AMOC progressively weakens up to a lag of approximately 80 months, and then the negative overturning anomaly persists for years. Compared with the sensitivity to surface heat fluxes, seasonality in the AMOC sensitivity to surface freshwater fluxes is less pronounced, and there is no sign reversal between the response to summer and winter perturbations. We explain the mechanisms behind the large seasonal differences in the AMOC sensitivity to surface heat fluxes and highlight the role of evaporation. Heat flux anomalies over the Subpolar Gyre trigger changes in the rate of evaporation and hence affect the salinity of the mixed layer. Surface cooling gives rise to freshening in the following months, whereas warming leads to salinification. Persistent buoyancy changes due to salinity responses counteract the impact of heat fluxes to a varying extent depending on the seasonal mixed layer depth. On the other hand, air-sea feedback mechanisms exert a positive feedback on the AMOC response to surface freshwater flux perturbations both in the summer and in the winter months.

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