North Atlantic–Arctic Mediterranean exchanges in an ensemble hindcast experiment



[1] An ensemble-hindcast approach is designed to simulate North Atlantic circulation changes during the period 1948–2005 using the Max Plank Institute Ocean Model forced by atmospheric reanalysis data. The experiment seeks to isolate oceanic changes related to the atmospheric forcing history by evaluating the role of initial conditions and masking internal model variability in the ensemble mean results. Characteristics of the complete North Atlantic–Arctic Mediterranean exchange system is described at key sections by time series of exchanges of volume, ice, heat, and liquid freshwater. Volume transports are divided into water masses by properties, and the constructed climatology of exchanges is shown to compare well with available observational estimates of individual branches. In response to the atmospheric forcing history, we find a modest but robust decline of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation of 0.4 Sv/decade, in total 2–2.5 Sv since 1948. In contrast, overturning exchanges with the North Atlantic and Nordic Seas and with the Nordic Seas and Arctic Ocean show no sign of cessation. A marked increase in the freshwater storage of the Nordic Seas and in particular of the subpolar Atlantic accompany the model decline in Atlantic overturning. The characteristics of the modeled freshening bears similarities with observed patterns of change since the 1950s, but whereas the origin of observed freshening is uncertain, freshening in the model predominantly results from dynamic changes linked to prominent changes in atmospheric circulation. Moreover, documented increase in the drainage of major Arctic-rivers is found to have a negligible effect on the oceanic changes.