Enhanced Atlantic subpolar gyre variability through baroclinic threshold in a coarse resolution model

Mengel, M.; Levermann, A.; Schleussner, C.-F.; Born, Andreas (2012). Enhanced Atlantic subpolar gyre variability through baroclinic threshold in a coarse resolution model. Earth system dynamics, 3(2), pp. 189-197. Katlenburg-Lindau: Copernicus Publications 10.5194/esd-3-189-2012

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Direct observations, satellite measurements and paleo records reveal strong variability in the Atlantic subpolar gyre on various time scales. Here we show that variations of comparable amplitude can only be simulated in a coupled climate model in the proximity of a dynamical threshold. The threshold and the associated dynamic response is due to a positive feedback involving increased salt transport in the subpolar gyre and enhanced deep convection in its centre. A series of sensitivity experiments is performed with a coarse resolution ocean general circulation model coupled to a statistical-dynamical atmosphere model which in itself does not produce atmospheric variability. To simulate the impact of atmospheric variability, the model system is perturbed with freshwater forcing of varying, but small amplitude and multi-decadal to centennial periodicities and observational variations in wind stress. While both freshwater and wind-stress-forcing have a small direct effect on the strength of the subpolar gyre, the magnitude of the gyre's response is strongly increased in the vicinity of the threshold. Our results indicate that baroclinic self-amplification in the North Atlantic ocean can play an important role in presently observed SPG variability and thereby North Atlantic climate variability on multi-decadal scales.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Physics Institute > Climate and Environmental Physics

UniBE Contributor:

Born, Andreas


500 Science > 530 Physics




Copernicus Publications




Factscience Import

Date Deposited:

04 Oct 2013 14:44

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 14:13

Publisher DOI:





https://boris.unibe.ch/id/eprint/18160 (FactScience: 226026)

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