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Southern Ocean circulation and eddy compensation in CMIP5 models

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-18, 13:03 authored by Stephanie Downes, Hogg, AM
Thirteen state-of-the-art climate models from phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) are used to evaluate the response of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) transport and Southern Ocean meridional overturning circulation to surface wind stress and buoyancy changes. Understanding how these flows—fundamental players in the global distribution of heat, gases, and nutrients—respond to climate change is currently a widely debated issue among oceanographers. Here, the authors analyze the circulation responses of these coarse-resolution coupled models to surface fluxes. Under a future CMIP5 climate pathway where the equivalent atmospheric CO2 reaches 1370 ppm by 2100, the models robustly project reduced Southern Ocean density in the upper 2000 m accompanied by strengthened stratification. Despite an overall increase in overlying wind stress (~20%), the projected ACC transports lie within ±15% of their historical state, and no significant relationship with changes in the magnitude or position of the wind stress is identified. The models indicate that a weakening of ACC transport at the end of the twenty-first century is correlated with a strong increase in the surface heat and freshwater fluxes in the ACC region. In contrast, the surface heat gain across the ACC region and the wind-driven surface transports are significantly correlated with an increased upper and decreased lower Eulerian-mean meridional overturning circulation. The change in the eddy-induced overturning in both the depth and density spaces is quantified, and it is found that the CMIP5 models project partial eddy compensation of the upper and lower overturning cells.


Publication title

Journal of Climate










Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies


Amer Meteorological Soc

Place of publication

45 Beacon St, Boston, USA, Ma, 02108-3693

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Socio-economic Objectives

Climate change models

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