- Journal Article
Multicentury sensitivities in a realistic geometry global ocean general circulation model are analyzed using an adjoint technique. This paper takes advantage of the adjoint model’s ability to generate maps of the sensitivity of a diagnostic (i.e., the meridional overturning’s strength) to all model parameters. This property of adjoints is used to review several theories, which have been elaborated to explain the strength of the North Atlantic’s meridional overturning. This paper demonstrates the profound impact of boundary conditions in permitting or suppressing mechanisms within a realistic model of the contemporary ocean circulation. For example, the so-called Drake Passage Effect in which wind stress in the Southern Ocean acts as the main driver of the overturning’s strength, is shown to be an artifact of boundary conditions that restore the ocean’s surface temperature and salinity toward prescribed climatologies. Advective transports from the Indian and Pacific basins play an important role in setting the strength of the overturning circulation under “mixed” boundary conditions, in which a flux of freshwater is specified at the ocean’s surface.
The most “realistic” regime couples an atmospheric energy and moisture balance model to the ocean. In this configuration, inspection of the global maps of sensitivity to wind stress and diapycnal mixing suggests a significant role for near-surface Ekman processes in the Tropics. Buoyancy also plays an important role in setting the overturning’s strength, through direct thermal forcing near the sites of convection, or through the advection of salinity anomalies in the Atlantic basin.
© 2008 American Meteorological Society