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Stability of the thermohaline circulation examined with a one-dimensional fluid loop

Roquet, F., Lindqvist, R., Pollmann, F., Ferreira, D. and Madec, G. (2017) Stability of the thermohaline circulation examined with a one-dimensional fluid loop. Tellus Series A: Dynamic Meteorology and Oceanography, 69 (1). 1380490. ISSN 0280-6495

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1080/16000870.2017.1380490


The Stommel box model elegantly demonstrates that the oceanic response to mixed boundary conditions, combining a temperature relaxation with a fixed salt flux forcing, is nonlinear owing to the so-called salt advection feedback. This nonlinearity produces a parameter range of bi-stability associated with hysteresis effects characterised by a fast thermally-driven mode and a slow salinity-driven mode. Here we investigate whether a similar dynamical behaviour can be found in the thermohaline loop model, a one-dimensional analogue of the box model. A semi-analytical method to compute possible steady states of the loop model is presented, followed by a linear stability analysis carried out for a large range of loop configurations. While the salt advection feedback is found as in the box model, a major difference is obtained for the fast mode: an oscillatory instability is observed near the turning point of the fast mode branch, such that the range of bi-stability is systematically reduced, or even removed, in some cases. The oscillatory instability originates from a salinity anomaly that grows exponentially as it turns around the loop, a situation that may occur only when the salinity torque is directed against the loop flow. Factors such as mixing intensity, the relative strength of thermal and haline forcings, the nonlinearity of the equation of state or the loop geometry can strongly affect the stability properties of the loop.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > Department of Meteorology
ID Code:68372


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