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The importance of wind and buoyancy forcing for the boundary density variations and the geostrophic component of the AMOC at 26°N

Polo, I., Robson, J., Sutton, R. and Balmaseda, M. A. (2014) The importance of wind and buoyancy forcing for the boundary density variations and the geostrophic component of the AMOC at 26°N. Journal of Physical Oceanography, 44 (9). pp. 2387-2408. ISSN 0022-3670

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To link to this article DOI: 10.1175/JPO-D-13-0264.1

Abstract/Summary

It is widely thought that changes in both the surface buoyancy fluxes and wind stress drive variability in the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC), but that they drive variability on different time scales. For example, wind forcing dominates short-term variability through its effects on Ekman currents and coastal upwelling, whereas buoyancy forcing is important for longer time scales (multiannual and decadal). However, the role of the wind forcing on multiannual to decadal time scales is less clear. Here the authors present an analysis of simulations with the Nucleus for European Modelling of the Ocean (NEMO) ocean model with the aim of explaining the important drivers of the zonal density gradient at 26°N, which is directly related to the AMOC. In the experiments, only one of either the wind stress or the buoyancy forcing is allowed to vary in time, whereas the other remains at its seasonally varying climatology. On subannual time scales, variations in the density gradient, and in the AMOC minus Ekman, are driven largely by local wind-forced coastal upwelling at both the western and eastern boundaries. On decadal time scales, buoyancy forcing related to the North Atlantic Oscillation dominates variability in the AMOC. Interestingly, however, it is found that wind forcing also plays a role at longer time scales, primarily impacting the interannual variability through the excitation of Rossby waves in the central Atlantic, which propagate westward to interact with the western boundary, but also by modulating the decadal time-scale response to buoyancy forcing.

Item Type:Article
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Faculty of Science > School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences > NCAS
Faculty of Science > School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences > Department of Meteorology
ID Code:37550
Publisher:American Meteorological Society

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