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Journal Article

Destabilization of the thermohaline circulation by atmospheric eddy transports

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Nakamura, M., Stone, P., & Marotzke, J. (1994). Destabilization of the thermohaline circulation by atmospheric eddy transports. Journal of Climate, 7(12), 1870-1882. doi:10.1175/1520-0442(1994)007<1870:DOTTCB>2.0.CO;2.

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Simple process models have been developed to investigate the role of atmosphere-ocean feedbacks in the stability of the current mode of the thermohaline circulation in the North Atlantic. A positive feedback between the meridional atmospheric transport of moisture and the high-latitude sinking thermohaline circulation (EMT feedback) has been found to help destabilize the latter. The minimum perturbation required to shut off the high-latitude sinking is considerably smaller when this feedback is included. Also, the high-latitude sinking is shut off much faster with this feedback than without it, given a perturbation of the same magnitude. There is also a strong positive feedback between atmospheric heat transport and the thermohaline circulation, but this can be modeled accurately on the global scale by using a properly tuned Newtonian cooling law for the surface heat flux. Idealized flux adjustment experiments suggest that the sensitivity of the real climate is not represented well in coupled atmosphere-ocean general circulation models that require O(1)adjustments in the surface fluxes of heat and freshwater to simulate the current climate.