Multicentennial variability of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation and its climatic influence in a 4000 year simulation of the GFDL CM2.1 climate model

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Abstract

[1] We investigate decadal to multicentennial variability of Northern Hemisphere surface air temperature in a 4000-year control simulation of the GFDL CM2.1 climate model. Spectral analysis shows the presence of a distinct multicentennial timescale of temperature variability. The associated spatial pattern is broad, covering the entire Northern Hemisphere extratropics, but with enhanced amplitude in the Atlantic and Arctic sectors. This variability appears to be driven by interhemispheric fluctuations in oceanic heat transport associated with the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC). The AMOC variability is associated with century-scale propagation of salinity anomalies from the Southern Ocean to the subpolar North Atlantic, with out of phase transport variations between the upper ocean and deeper layers of the Atlantic. When positive (negative) upper ocean salinity anomalies reach the subpolar North Atlantic they strengthen (weaken) the AMOC by modulating upper ocean density and vertical stratification. The large-scale warming also appears to be enhanced by reductions in surface albedo associated with reduced sea-ice and low-level cloudiness, thereby increasing the absorption of shortwave radiation and amplifying the warming from AMOC changes. We speculate that such multicentennial variations in the AMOC could contribute to long-time scale climate fluctuations in the observed paleo record. This could arise purely as internal variability of the climate system, or through radiatively-induced changes to atmospheric circulation patterns, such as the NAO, that would in turn influence the AMOC.

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