Effect of Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation Changes on Tropical Coupled Ocean-Atmosphere System
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The objective of this study is to investigate the effect of Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) changes on tropical coupled ocean-atmosphere system via oceanic and atmospheric processes. A suite of numerical simulations have been conducted and the results show that both oceanic and atmospheric circulation changes induced by AMOC changes can have a profound impact on tropical sea surface temperature (SST) and sea surface salinity (SSS) conditions, but their dominance varies in different parts of the tropical oceans. The oceanic process has a dominant control on SST and SSS response to AMOC changes in the South Tropical Atlantic, while the atmospheric teleconnection is mainly responsible for SST and SSS changes over the North Tropical Atlantic and Pacific Oceans during the period of reduced AMOC. The finding has significant implication for the interpretation of the paleotemperature reconstructions over the southern Caribbean and the western Tropical Atlantic regions during the Younger Dryas. It suggests that the strong spatial inhomogeneity of the SST change revealed by the proxy records in these regions may be attributed to the competing oceanic and atmospheric processes that dominate the SST response. Similar mechanisms may also explain the reconstructed paleo-salinity change in the tropical Atlantic, which shows a basin-wide increase in SSS during the Younger Dryas, according to recent paleo climate studies. Finally, we show that atmospheric teleconnection induced by the surface cooling of the North Atlantic and the North Pacific in response to a weakened AMOC, is a leading physical mechanism that dictates the behavior of El Nino/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) response to AMOC changes. However, depending on its origin, the atmospheric teleconnection can affect ENSO variability in different ways. The atmospheric process associated with the North Atlantic cooling tends to enhance El Nino occurrence with a deepened mean thermocline depth in the eastern Pacific, whereas the atmospheric process associated with the North Pacific cooling tends to produce more La Nina events with a reduced mean thermocline depth in the eastern Pacific. Preliminary analysis suggests that the change in ENSO characteristics is associated with the change in internal atmospheric variability caused by the surface cooling in the North Atlantic and North Pacific. Complex nature of the underlying dynamics concerning the effect of the AMOC on ENSO calls for further investigation into this problem.
Wan, Xiuquan (2009). Effect of Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation Changes on Tropical Coupled Ocean-Atmosphere System. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from