Reconciling two alternative mechanisms behind bi-decadal variability in the North Atlantic

Ortega, Pablo; Mignot, Juliette; Swingedouw, Didier; Sévellec, Florian; Guilyardi, Eric (2015). Reconciling two alternative mechanisms behind bi-decadal variability in the North Atlantic. Progress in Oceanography, 137, pp. 237-249. Elsevier 10.1016/j.pocean.2015.06.009

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Understanding the preferential timescales of variability in the North Atlantic, usually associated with the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC), is essential for the prospects for decadal prediction. However, the wide variety of mechanisms proposed from the analysis of climate simulations, potentially dependent on the models themselves, has stimulated the debate of which processes take place in reality. One mechanism receiving increasing attention, identified both in idealized models and observations, is a westward propagation of subsurface buoyancy anomalies that impact the AMOC through a basin-scale intensification of the zonal density gradient, enhancing the northward transport via thermal wind balance. In this study, we revisit a control simulation from the Institut Pierre-Simon Laplace Coupled Model 5A (IPSL-CM5A), characterized by a strong AMOC periodicity at 20 years, previously explained by an upper ocean–atmosphere–sea ice coupled mode driving convection activity south of Iceland. Our study shows that this mechanism interacts constructively with the basin-wide propagation in the
subsurface. This constructive feedback may explain why bi-decadal variability is so intense in this coupled model as compared to others.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Physics Institute > Climate and Environmental Physics
10 Strategic Research Centers > Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research (OCCR)

UniBE Contributor:

Mignot, Juliette


500 Science > 530 Physics








Monika Wälti-Stampfli

Date Deposited:

02 Dec 2015 15:57

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 14:50

Publisher DOI:





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