A coupled model study on the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation under extreme atmospheric CO2 conditions

Rita Lecci, Simona Masina, Annalisa Cherchi, Marcelo Barreiro


This study investigates the climate sensitivity to a strong CO2 atmospheric forcing focusing on the North Atlantic Ocean (NA). The analysis is based on a set of 600 years long experiments performed with a state-of-the-art coupled general circulation model (CGCM) with the 1990 reference value of atmospheric CO2 multiplied by 4, 8 and 16. Extreme increases in atmospheric CO2 concentration have been applied to force the climate system towards stable states with different thermo-dynamical properties and analyze how the different resulting oceanic stratification and diffusion affect the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC). The AMOC weakens in response to the induced warming with distinctive features in the extreme case: a southward shift of convective sites and the formation of a density front at mid-latitudes. The analysis of the density fluxes reveals that NA loses density at high latitudes and gains it southward of 40°N mainly due to the haline contribution. Our results indicate that the most important processes that control the AMOC are active in the high latitudes and are related to the stability of the water column. The increased ocean stratification stabilizes the ocean interior leading to a decreased vertical diffusivity, a reduction in the formation of deep water and a weaker circulation. In particular, the deep convection collapses mainly in the Labrador Sea as a consequence of the water column stratification under high latitudes freshening.


AMOC; CO2; Ocean stratification; Vertical diffusivity

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.4401/ag-6658
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Published by INGV, Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia - ISSN: 2037-416X