Effects of fluctuating daily surface fluxes on the time-mean oceanic circulation
Balan Sarojini, B. and Von Storch, J.-S. (2009) Effects of fluctuating daily surface fluxes on the time-mean oceanic circulation. Climate Dynamics, 33 (1). pp. 1-18. ISSN 0930-7575
To link to this article DOI: 10.1007/s00382-009-0575-y
The effect of fluctuating daily surface fluxes on the time-mean oceanic circulation is studied using an empirical flux model. The model produces fluctuating fluxes resulting from atmospheric variability and includes oceanic feedbacks on the fluxes. Numerical experiments were carried out by driving an ocean general circulation model with three different versions of the empirical model. It is found that fluctuating daily fluxes lead to an increase in the meridional overturning circulation (MOC) of the Atlantic of about 1 Sv and a decrease in the Antarctic circumpolar current (ACC) of about 32 Sv. The changes are approximately 7% of the MOC and 16% of the ACC obtained without fluctuating daily fluxes. The fluctuating fluxes change the intensity and the depth of vertical mixing. This, in turn, changes the density field and thus the circulation. Fluctuating buoyancy fluxes change the vertical mixing in a non-linear way: they tend to increase the convective mixing in mostly stable regions and to decrease the convective mixing in mostly unstable regions. The ACC changes are related to the enhanced mixing in the subtropical and the mid-latitude Southern Ocean and reduced mixing in the high-latitude Southern Ocean. The enhanced mixing is related to an increase in the frequency and the depth of convective events. As these events bring more dense water downward, the mixing changes lead to a reduction in meridional gradient of the depth-integrated density in the Southern Ocean and hence the strength of the ACC. The MOC changes are related to more subtle density changes. It is found that the vertical mixing in a latitudinal strip in the northern North Atlantic is more strongly enhanced due to fluctuating fluxes than the mixing in a latitudinal strip in the South Atlantic. This leads to an increase in the density difference between the two strips, which can be responsible for the increase in the Atlantic MOC.