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Contribution of ocean physics and dynamics at different scales to heat uptake in low-resolution AOGCMs

Saenko, O. A., Gregory, J. M., Griffies, S. M., Couldrey, M. P. and Dias, F. B. (2021) Contribution of ocean physics and dynamics at different scales to heat uptake in low-resolution AOGCMs. Journal of Climate, 34 (6). pp. 2017-2035. ISSN 1520-0442

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1175/JCLI-D-20-0652.1


Using an ensemble of atmosphere-ocean general circulation models (AOGCMs) in an idealized climate change experiment, this study quantifies the contributions to ocean heat uptake (OHU) from ocean physical parameterizations and resolved dynamical processes operating at different scales. Analysis of heat budget diagnostics reveals a leading-order global heat balance in the sub-surface upper ocean in a steady state between the large-scale circulation warming it and mesoscale processes cooling it, and shows that there are positive contributions from processes on all scales to the subsurface OHU during climate change. There is better agreement among the AOGCMs in the net OHU than in the individual scales/processes contributing to it. In the upper ocean and at high latitudes, OHU is dominated by small-scale diapycnal processes. Below 400 m, OHU is dominated by the super-residual transport, representing large-scale ocean dynamics combined with all parameterized mesoscale and submesoscale eddy effects. Weakening of the AMOC leads to less heat convergence in the subpolar North Atlantic and less heat divergence at lower latitudes, with a small overall effect on the net Atlantic heat content. At low latitudes, the dominance of advective heat redistribution is contrary to the diffusive OHU mechanism assumed by the commonly used upwelling-diffusion model. Using a density watermass framework, it is found that most of the OHU occurs along isopycnal directions. This feature of OHU is used to accurately reconstruct the global vertical ocean warming profile from the surface heat flux anomalies, supporting advective (rather than diffusive) models of OHU and sea-level rise.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > NCAS
ID Code:94831
Publisher:American Meteorological Society


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