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Free Content Role of the Southern Ocean in setting the Atlantic stratification and meridional overturning circulation

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This study examines the importance of the Southern Ocean (SO) stratification in determining the upper cell of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (MOC) and stratification. Main results are based on a suite of idealized numerical simulations of the Atlantic with the prescribed density structure at the Atlantic southern boundary, intended to explore the importance of various factors. The results demonstrate that the density distribution at the SO-Atlantic boundary is the key factor controlling the Atlantic stratification and MOC, whereas the main importance of the Ekman and eddy (parameterized) exchanges is in setting the SO stratification. Among all aspects of the SO stratification, the position of the deep isopycnals near the western boundary of the Atlantic basin appears to determine the strength of the MOC for given isopycnal outcrop positions in the North Atlantic. The interplay between the SO stratification and surface density in the North Atlantic is, however, important for the MOC. In particular, the steady-state AMOC response to a negative North Atlantic density anomaly is shown to be amplified if the SO stratification is not allowed to change.

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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 1, 2011

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  • The Journal of Marine Research, one of the oldest journals in American marine science, publishes peer-reviewed research articles covering a broad array of topics in physical, biological and chemical oceanography. Articles that deal with processes, as well as those that report significant observations, are welcome. Biological studies involving coupling between ecological and physical processes are preferred over those that report systematics. The editors strive always to serve authors and readers in the academic oceanographic community by publishing papers vital to the marine research in the long and rich tradition of the Sears Foundation for Marine Research. We welcome you to the Journal of Marine Research.
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