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Mechanisms of decadal variability in the Labrador Sea and the wider North Atlantic in a high-resolution climate model

Ortega, P., Robson, J. ORCID:, Sutton, R. T. ORCID: and Andrews, M. B. (2017) Mechanisms of decadal variability in the Labrador Sea and the wider North Atlantic in a high-resolution climate model. Climate Dynamics, 49 (7-8). pp. 2625-2647. ISSN 0930-7575

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1007/s00382-016-3467-y


A necessary step before assessing the performance of decadal predictions is the evaluation of the processes that bring memory to the climate system, both in climate models and observations. These mechanisms are particularly relevant in the North Atlantic, where the ocean circulation, related to both the Subpolar Gyre and the Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), is thought to be important for driving significant heat content anomalies. Recently, a rapid decline in observed densities in the deep Labrador Sea has pointed to an ongoing slowdown of the AMOC strength taking place since the mid 90s, a decline also hinted by in-situ observations from the RAPID array. This study explores the use of Labrador Sea densities as a precursor of the ocean circulation changes, by analysing a 300-year long simulation with the state-of-the-art coupled model HadGEM3-GC2. The major drivers of Labrador Sea density variability are investigated, and are characterised by three major contributions. First, the integrated effect of local surface heat fluxes, mainly driven by year-to-year changes in the North Atlantic Oscillation, which accounts for 62% of the total variance. Additionally, two multidecadal-to-centennial contributions from the Greenland-Scotland Ridge outflows are quantified; the first associated with freshwater exports via the East Greenland Current, and the second with density changes in the Denmark Strait Overflow. Finally, evidence is shown that decadal trends in Labrador Sea densities are followed by important atmospheric impacts. In particular, a negative winter NAO response appears to follow the positive Labrador Sea density trends, and provides a phase reversal mechanism.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > NCAS
Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > Department of Meteorology
ID Code:68216


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