Atlantic ocean circulation Department of Meteorology

Atlantic ocean circulation Department of Meteorology
Some aspects of the
Atlantic
ocean
circulation
R e z wa n M o h a m m a d
Department of Meteorology
S T O C K H O L M U N I V E R S I T Y, 2 0 0 5
Some aspects of the
Atlantic
ocean
circulation
R e z wa n M o h a m m a d
Department of Meteorology
S T O C K H O L M U N I V E R S I T Y, 2 0 0 5
Some aspects of the Atlantic ocean circulation
Rezwan Mohammad
ISBN 91–7155–047–X, pp. 1–23
c Rezwan Mohammad, 2005
Doctoral thesis
Doctoral dissertation May 20, 2005
Stockholm University
Department of Meteorology
SE–106 91 Stockholm
Sweden
Typeset by LATEX
Printed by Duvbo tryckeri AB
Stockholm 2005
Abstract
The present thesis deals with the ocean circulation from two viewpoints:
Pro primo, the dependence of the global thermohaline ocean circulation
(THC) on the parameterization of the small-scale vertical mixing processes
in the interior of the ocean, and, pro secundo, the dynamics of the circulation in the Nordic Seas. The THC is found be crucially dependent on
the parameterization of the small-scale vertical mixing, two types of which
have been compared: The commonly used constant diffusivity and a, physically more plausible, stability-dependent parameterization. For constant
diffusivity the circulation weakens when the equator-to-pole surface density
difference is decreased, consonant with commonly held prejudices. However, for stability-dependent diffusivity the circulation is enhanced. This
conclusion has been reached using two investigative techniques, viz. a scale
analysis as well as a numerical zonally-averaged and equatorially symmetric
THC model. However, if asymmetric flows are considered, the dynamics
become more complex to interpret. It has, nevertheless, been concluded
that when the degree of asymmetry of the surface-density distribution is
taken to be fixed, the response of the circulation to changes of the surfacedensity distribution corresponds to that from the symmetric investigation.
The studies of the Nordic Seas are mainly based on satellite-altimetric
data providing Sea-Level Anomalies (SLAs). These are utilized to estimate the seasonal cycle as well as the inter-annual variability of the
depth-integrated flows. The seasonal cycle is examined using the winterto-summer difference of the barotropic flow, with focus on the entire region
as well as on two sections extending from a common point in the central
Norwegian Sea to Svinøy on the Norwegian coast and to the Faroe Islands,
respectively. The total barotropic transport is estimated to be around 10 Sv
larger during winter than in summer, of which 8 Sv are associated with the
barotropic re-circulation gyre in the interior of the Norwegian Sea, the remainder being linked to the Atlantic inflow across the Iceland-Scotland
Ridge. The inter-annual variability of the circulation in the Nordic Seas is
investigated on the basis of a theoretical analysis permitting independent
calculation of the barotropic flow along closed isobaths using SLA data as
well as wind data. The barotropic flow based on SLA data is found to
co-vary with the flow estimated using wind data.
i
Preface
I have hard to believe that seven years at MISU have been passing so
quick, two years as an undergraduate student and almost five more years
as graduate student. The PhD studies at MISU has been very educative
and the scientific atmosphere is very inspiring.
Many colleagues have been contributing to this work with their ideas,
comments and discussions, and of course, the first ones I think of are my
supervisors Johan Nilsson and Peter Lundberg. Johan has given me all his
support and encouragement and most important a stimulation to broaden
my scientific mind. This thesis have not been what it is today without your
constructive ideas. I would like to give you all the credits and acknowledge
possible. Peter Lundberg has always been supporting me with his cheering
words (especially when the situation was somewhat dubious), his great
sense of humor and not at least his guidance for considering things in
a wider perspective. Furthermore, I am very grateful for your effort to
improve my english language.
I would also like to take the opportunity to thank Thomas Rossby,
Jonas Nycander, Göran Broström, Peter Sigray and Branko Grisogono for
valuable comments and interesting discussions.
Birgitta, Birgitta, Pat and Solveig have always been willing to help me
out from troubles. A special thank to Eva Tiberg who sorted out administrative things for me. Michael Burger has patiently been answering all
my stupid computer questions and Janne, Leif and Nils have been helping
me with practical things since I am all fingers and thumbs. Ulla Hammarstrand has arranged that I have been given the chance to teach which
I really appreciate, specially the laborative exercises in Numerical methods
and Baroclinic instability.
Then a big thanks to all PhD students for your support. My room
mates Jenny Nilsson, Greger Bengtsson, Anne Kubin and Henrik Ernstson:
Thank you all for endless and encouraging discussions about everything and
nothing. Also thanks to Radovan Krejčı́ for the encouraging slap on my
back.
And I do not want to forget to mention my cultivated lunch company
including Johan, Jonas, Göran and Anders Engqvist leaded by Kristofer
Döös. You made the food of Lantis taste much better.
ii
At last my poor family and friends who have given all their support and
patience when I had to spend my time in front of the computer instead of
socializing together with them. A lot of gratitude to all of you.
Aaim Aamar EI kajiT Aamar ‰eołzoy ma erHanar it UĚsoŕgo kriq. tuim, eJ EI
kajiT soőpooßo kret Aamaek Sioţo, saHs O erNa Juigeyq. eJ tuim Aamaek buCet iSixeyq
eJ pŘiQbŇet Asoéob bel ikqu enI.
iii
List of papers
Pa p e r I
The role of diapycnal mixing for the equilibrium response of thermohaline circulation
R e z wa n M o h a m m a d a n d J o h a n N i l s s o n
Ocean Dynamics, 2004, 54(1), 54–65
Pa p e r I I
Symmetric and asymmetric modes of the
thermohaline circulation
R e z wa n M o h a m m a d a n d J o h a n N i l s s o n
Under review in Tellus, Series A
Pa p e r I I I
An altimetric study of the Nordic-Sea region
seasonal cycle
R e z wa n M o h a m m a d , J o h a n N i l s s o n a n d
P e t e r L u n d b e rg
Under review in Deep Sea Research Part I
Pa p e r I V
Inter-annual variability of the along-isobath
flow in the Norwegian Sea
R e z wa n M o h a m m a d
Stockholm University, Department of Meteorology,
DM-report 94, 2005
v
Thesis summary
1
Introduction
Over the last decades the global thermohaline circulation (THC) has attracted ever-increasing scientific attention. This is due to its importance
for the global climate, where the meridional overturning plays a significant
role for evening out the global radiative imbalance between the equatorial
and the polar regions. Paleo studies show, however, that over geological
time-scales considerable climate fluctuations have taken place (as exemplified by e.g. the presence of tropical fossils in the Arctic), to a considerable
extent associated with changes of the THC.
The focus of the present thesis dealing with the thermohaline circulation
will primarily be on the Atlantic Ocean. This is partly because of the
importance of the North Atlantic THC for the climate of Western Europe,
but also since the Atlantic is the most comprehensively investigated ocean
basin, having been subjected to wide variety of field surveys as well as
theoretical studies.
The first systematic oceanographic investigation of the Atlantic (Thomson, 1878) was thus undertaken in connection with the R/V Challenger expedition 1873–1876, generally regarded as the ground-breaking event which
launched the modern biological, chemical as well as physical ocean sciences.
Although neither reversing thermometers nor standardized techniques for
determining sea-water salinity had been developed at this time, ingenious
use of maximum-minimum thermometers made it feasible for the Challenger scientists to measure reasonably accurate vertical temperature profiles down to great depths. Fig. 1, reproduced from a rarely encountered
study due to Wild (1877), thus shows the observed north-south vertical
temperature distribution along approximately the 30◦ W meridian in the
Atlantic. Already in this early representation we recognize the cold- and
warm-water spheres of the ocean, the latter in modern oceanographic mod1
Thesis summary
F i g u r e 1: Atlantic temperature section, reproduced from Wild (1877).
elling jargon commonly denoted the thermocline.
Around fifty years later (Spieß, 1928) the first comprehensive “modern”
oceanographic survey of the Atlantic (in particular its southern parts) was
carried out in 1925–1927 by the R/V Meteor, equipped with Nansen bottles, reversing thermometers, titration apparatus for determining sea-water
salinity, and, not least important, an echosounder for bathymetric observations. (Note, incidentally, that use of this recently perfected technical
device lead to the discovery of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.) This two-year
cruise established the overall features of the Atlantic hydrography more-orless as we know them today, cf. the meridional salinity section along 30◦ W
in Fig. 2.
Since these pioneering investigations considerable scientific development,
has, however, taken place. This holds true not least as regards theoretical
modelling, a topic which in the present thesis is pursued in papers I and
II. These two investigations, based on a simplified two-dimensional representation of the ocean, deal with the large-scale features of the Atlantic
thermohaline circulation, particularly how the meridional transports and
the thermocline characteristics are affected, and even controlled, by the
internal mixing in the ocean.
The idealized two-dimensional rectangular basin which was used to represent the Atlantic for modelling purposes is, however, not altogether appropriate. The meridional circulation is in reality subject to a number of
topographic constraints. One of the most important of these is exerted by
the Greenland-Scotland Ridge, across which the comparatively warm and
high-saline North Atlantic surface waters must pass on their way to the
convection areas in the Nordic Seas. In this region wintertime atmospheric
2
1 Introduction
F i g u r e 2: Atlantic salinity section as deduced by Merz and Wüst (Spieß, 1928).
cooling leads to the production of dense deep water, which ultimately closes
the global “conveyor belt” by making its way southward into the Atlantic
proper, mainly via the Faroe-Bank Channel and the Denmark Strait.
The transport of North Atlantic surface waters into the Nordic Seas
is not only responsible for maintaining the present climate of Western Europe, it is also crucial for the viability of commercially important fish stocks.
This latter feature to a considerable extent explains why systematic oceanographic investigations of the Atlantic inflow as well as of the hydrographic
conditions in the Nordic Seas began well over a hundred years ago. The pioneering efforts were made during the 1876–1878 R/V Vøringen expedition
(Mohn, 1885, 1887) focusing on the Norwegian Sea. The Greenland and
Iceland Seas were surveyed during the R/V Sofia and R/V Ingolf expeditions in 1883 and 1894–1895, respectively (Nordenskiöld, 1885; Knudsen,
1899).
Standardized techniques were at this time coming into use for hydrographic observations; other investigations were, however, still carried out
in a rather makeshift fashion, hence Nordenskiöld (1885) classical account
of an attempted drifter experiment during the R/V Sofia expedition:
“. . . Under det att Sofia ångade fram i det härliga vädret på
den mellan Färöarnas höga klippstränder alldeles stilla sjön,
tömde några af oss på däck en flaska af en ypperlig madera, som
herr William Schönlank i Berlin förärat expeditionen. Såsom
vid dylika tillfällen ofta plägar ske, kastades den tömda flaskan
3
Thesis summary
F i g u r e 3: Surface currents in the southern Norwegian Sea (Helland-Hansen
and Nansen, 1909).
öfver bord, sedan den åter blifvit korkad och några visitkort med
helsningar m.m. i densamma inlagda. Denna gång inträffade
det mindre vanliga, att flaskan dref oskadad i land . . . ”
The first comprehensive overview of the hydrography as well as the circulation of the Norwegian Sea was, however, provided by Helland-Hansen
and Nansen (1909) on the basis of their field investigations in 1904–1905.
The overall analysis and description of the oceanographic conditions which
these investigators presented still holds true to a remarkably high degree.
As an example hereof it is well worth underlining that the main characteristics of the surface-current distribution in the southern Norwegian Sea
Fig. 3 proposed by Helland-Hansen and Nansen (1909) still remain valid
today, i.e. after almost a full century. This is particularly noteworthy in
view of the fact that recording current meters did not enter the arsenal of
the field oceanographer until the early 1960s.
A more recent addition to the presently available battery of observational methods is satellite altimetry, whereby the sea-surface topography
can be directly observed. Papers III and IV of the present thesis thus deal
with the practical application of this technique to examine the barotropic
transports in the Nordic Seas, with particular reference to the possibility
of quantifying the Atlantic inflow in the Faroe region as well as examing
the recirculation taking place in the interior of the Norwegian Sea.
In
view of the varied methodological approaches to oceanographic problems
4
2 Model studies
Atlantic temperature
0
25
1000
Temperature
20
Depth
2000
PSfrag replacements
15
3000
10
4000
5
5000
0
−50
0
50
Latitude
F i g u r e 4: Atlantic vertical temperature section along 30◦ W.
outlined above, it has, as presumably will become evident in what follows,
been concluded by the present author that the most constructive forward
path lies in the judicious application of a pragmatic combination of the
different techniques.
2
Model studies
The fully modern picture of the Atlantic hydrography emerged when Conductivity-Temperature-Depth (CTD) probes came into widespread use
around 30 years ago. As an example of what has been accomplished using
these fully modern observational techniques, Fig. 4 shows the present-day
image of the thermal stratification characterizing a meridional NS section
extending along the the Atlantic. The recent advances in our knowledge
are particularly keenly appreciated when a comparison is made with Fig. 1
and 2, representing the current insights available in the 1880s and 1920s,
respectively.
Not least due to these observational advances, numerical modelling of
the ocean circulation has come to play an increasingly important role for
climate predictions such as the ones advanced by the Integovernmental
Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). It must, however, be kept in mind that
the ocean models which this august body espouses are comprehensive and
three-dimensional with the attendant advantages concerning resolution and
inclusion of various processes. Nevertheless it is not given a priori that cru5
Thesis summary
cial physical processes are correctly represented. A prime example hereof is
the parameterization of the internal small-scale vertical mixing in the ocean
interior, which generally is formulated in a rather conventional terms. In order to test the effects of more subtle parameterizations it proves convenient
to base the investigations on meridionally averaged models, particularly in
order to reduce ambiguities when interpreting the model results.
During the last two decades there has been a wide-spread interest in
issues concerning the thermohaline circulation and a number of simplified
models have been used to study its fundamental properties (e.g. Bryan,
1986; Marotzke et al., 1988). Papers I and II of the present thesis are based
on a zonally averaged two-dimensional numerical thermohaline model similar to the ones used in previous studies focusing on an idealized model basin
(Wright and Stocker, 1991; Rahmstorf, 2000). The model is used to study
the rôle of small-scale vertical mixing for the symmetric and asymmetric
circulation modes. The model is forced thermally as well as by mixed
boundary conditions. The thermal forcing is a symmetric restoring surface
temperature with cooling in the polar regions and heating in the tropics.
Mixed boundary conditions imply that the model system is forced thermally as well as by a freshwater flux, the latter represented by a prescribed
symmetric surface salinity flux with precipitation in the polar regions and
evaporation in the tropics. The surface salinity flux is associated with the
atmospheric meridional transport of water vapor.
Before examining the model studies constituting papers I and II of the
present thesis, it is important to underline that for the symmetric modes
of the thermohaline circulation the dynamics can be described on the basis
of classical thermocline scaling (Welander, 1986). Here the key quantities are the equator-to-pole surface density difference, ∆ρ, and the smallscale vertical mixing, κ. For the latter quantity, the dynamical effects of
two different assumptions of the physical nature of the small-scale vertical mixing are compared: (1) constant diffusivity, which is frequently used
in ocean-circulation models and (2) the more physically plausible parameterization where the rate of energy supplied for the mixing is constant,
implying that the diffusivity is dependent on the stability (e.g. Huang,
1999; Nilsson and Walin, 2001). The analysis suggests that the thermocline depth scales as H ∼ κ1/3 · ∆ρ−1/3 and the strength of the circulation
as ψ ∼ κ2/3 · ∆ρ1/3 . For constant diffusivity this implies that the relation
between the strength of the circulation and the equator-to-pole density difference is ψ ∼ ∆ρ1/3 . Assuming that the mixing energy is constant, the
diffusivity is dependent on the vertical stratification. The parameterization
of the vertical mixing presented in the appended paper is κ ∼ ∆ρ−1 , indi6
2 Model studies
cating that ψ ∼ ∆ρ−1/3 . Numerical results from a zonally and equatorially
symmetric two-dimensional as well as a three-dimensional model (Nilsson
et al., 2003), corroborate the outcome of the scale analysis. Hence, the
response of the circulation is fundamentally different for the two parameterizations of the mixing: When the equator-to-pole density difference
increases, the circulation is amplified for constant diffusivity, whereas it
weakens for stability-dependent diffusivity. As will be seen, however, the
results for equatorially asymmetric circulations are more subtle. The results from the symmetric-flow scale analysis do not apply for asymmetric
flows and the corresponding model results do not, at first glance, point in
the same direction as those from the symmetric case.
2.1
The symmetric mode
Paper I focuses on the parameterization of the small-scale vertical mixing.
How this is done proves to be crucial for the response of the THC to changes
of the equator-to-pole surface temperature gradient and the atmospheric
meridional freshwater transport, these two quantities being the dominating
external factors affecting the THC.
The commonly held view of the THC response is that a more pronounced equator-to-pole surface density gradient results in a stronger circulation. Increased freshwater forcing curtails the density gradient and,
consequently, also the circulation. This argument is, however, dependent
on how the parameterization of the small-scale vertical mixing is undertaken. Our knowledge of these processes in the interior of the ocean is
poor, and hence the vertical mixing is commonly assumed to be fixed and
independent of the density stratification. However, a more physically reasonable assumption is that the mixing (and thus also the diffusivity) is
suppressed by a strong stratification and that the diffusivity increases as
the stratification becomes weaker.
Nilsson and Walin (2001) found that if the diffusivity is assumed to
be stability-dependent, the circulation is enhanced by a weaker equatorto-pole density difference caused by the surface salinity flux. This result
contradicts generally held views and thus deserves further consideration.
Paper I pursues this line of inquiry on the basis of scale analysis as well
as a simple zonally averaged numerical thermohaline circulation model.
Since a one-hemisphere basin is employed, the study is restricted to equatorially symmetric circulations.
The following highly simplified picture of the THC underlies the scale
analysis: A thin warm-water layer floats above dense deep water (cf. Fig. 4).
7
Thesis summary
The warm water of low density spreads from the tropics towards the poles,
where it cools and hereby assumes a higher density. In some well-localized
areas the water becomes sufficiently dense to sink, hereby forming deep water. This flows back through the deep ocean towards lower latitudes, where
it eventually up-wells and transgresses the thermocline on its way towards
the surface. (In the World Ocean this circulation is, in fact, asymmetric
with respect to the equator. In paper I this feature is neglected for reasons
of simplicity, whereas the skewness will be taken into account in paper II.)
The scale analysis, together with the frequently used assumption that
the diffusivity is constant, implies that the strength of the circulation scales
as ψ ∼ ∆ρ1/3 . On the other hand, if the production rate of potential energy
available for small-scale mixing (from e.g. winds and tides) is taken to be
constant, which is a physically more plausible assumption, the THC scales
as ψ ∼ ∆ρ−1/3 .
The physical mechanisms underlying these results are related to how the
thermocline depth H responds to changes of ∆ρ. In the constant-diffusivity
case H ∼ ∆ρ−1/3 , which hampers the circulation when ∆ρ is increased, but
not to such a degree that the response of the circulation is reversed. In the
stability-dependent case H ∼ ∆ρ−2/3 , i.e. a more pronounced dependence
than in the constant-diffusivity case. Somewhat counter-intuitively, this
results in a curtailed circulation.
It is now of interest to examine how these results correspond to those
from the numerical model describing a zonally averaged Boussinesq fluid
in hydrostatic balance. The model domain is a single-hemispheric basin
with solid vertical walls at equator and pole and an impermeable bottom
at constant depth (i.e. neither topography nor continents). No transports
are allowed through these boundaries, and at the surface the temperature
is restored towards a prescribed temperature distribution, viz. heating at
low latitudes and cooling at the pole. Furthermore the surface salinity is
dynamically controlled by a prescribed vertical salinity flux arising from
net evaporation and precipitation at low and high latitudes, respectively.
The vertical diffusivity is parameterized in two ways: As constant and
as stability-dependent with κ ∼ ∆ρ−1 . The model behavior for each of
these cases is compared.
Two types of model experiments are presented in paper I: Simulations
with only thermal forcing, and with thermal as well as freshwater forcing
(the latter case denoted mixed boundary conditions). For the “thermal”
simulations no freshwater forcing was applied, implying that the density
only is a function of temperature. The simulations are initiated from a
reference state, whereafter the equator-to-pole temperature difference ∆T
8
2 Model studies
is repeatedly incremented, the model runs each time being permitted to
attain a new steady state.
The results from these simulations are presented in Fig. 5 of paper I,
which shows the strength of the overturning circulation versus ∆T . The
main conclusion is that the two parameterizations give rise to fundamentally different results: For constant diffusivity the overturning is enhanced
with increasing ∆T , whereas in the stability-dependent case the results are
reversed, i.e. the circulation weakens with increasing temperature forcing.
These results corroborate those from the scale analysis and also agree with
the outcome of three-dimensional modeling (Nilsson et al., 2003).
Analogous simulations also including freshwater forcing have additionally been undertaken. ∆T was held fixed throughout these experiments,
while the freshwater forcing R was slightly increased before each consecutive
numerical integration. These mixed-boundary results proved to be somewhat complex, since now the surface-density distribution is dynamically
determined, whereas in the thermally forced simulations it was prescribed.
The results were found to be more-or-less in agreement with those from
the thermally forced simulations. Increased freshwater forcing implies a
weakened equator-to-pole density difference, corresponding to a smaller
temperature difference in the thermally forced simulations. Hence, for
an increased freshwater forcing the circulation weakens in the constantdiffusivity case, but is enhanced when the diffusivity is taken to be stabilitydependent.
Paper I also includes a discussion of the salinity-dominated reversed
circulation as well as an analysis of the feedback mechanisms between the
circulation and the salinity field which underlie the time-dependent results
forming a part of the investigation.
The main conclusion to be drawn is that constant and stability-dependent diffusivities in a single-hemispheric THC model give rise to fundamentally different results, which, however, conform to predictions from scale
analysis. A logical next step, undertaken in paper II, is to generalize these
results to a two-hemispheric model permitting asymmetric circulations.
2.2
The asymmetric mode
In paper II the analysis from paper I is extended to asymmetric flows using
the same numerical THC model, but with the modeling domain encompassing both hemispheres.
Also here the cases with solely thermal forcing and with mixed forcing are studied separately, since the dynamics characterizing the thermally
9
Thesis summary
∆T = 0.5
∆T = 1
ρ
1
R = 0.31
S
1
0
0
R = 0.38
T
1
1
1
PSfrag replacements
1
0
0
0
1
0
0
0
1
0
0
0
0
S
Eq
N
S
Eq
N
S
Eq
N
F i g u r e 5: Surface distributions from the model. The left-hand, middle, and
right-hand column shows the thermal forcing, the freshwater forcing, and the
resulting steady-state surface-density distribution, respectively. The two upper
rows show symmetric cases with different thermal forcing (∆T = 0.5 and ∆T = 1,
respectively). The two lower rows show cases with different strengths of the
freshwater forcing (symmetric and asymmetric, respectively). The x-axes shows
the latitude and the y-axes the magnitude of the parameter in question. All units
non-dimensionalized.
forced system are more straightforward to interpret. In this latter case the
density is only a function of temperature, since haline effects are absent. It
has, however, been shown that it is the surface density distribution in itself which determines the properties of the interior-basin circulation. This
makes it possible to reproduce a circulation which is dynamically determined from mixed boundary conditions by solely using a thermal boundary
condition. The way in which this is accomplished is by selecting a thermal boundary condition with a distribution identical to the dynamically
determined density distribution for mixed boundary conditions.
The freshwater impact on the surface-density distribution is illustrated
in Fig. 5. From the bottom row of diagrams illustrating an asymmetric
state, it is recognized that the freshwater forcing acts to reduce the density
in one hemisphere, resulting in an asymmetric surface-density distribution.
10
Temperature
2 Model studies
PSfrag replacements
Surface temperature
O
1
∆T
0.5
O
µ · ∆T
0
S
Eq
N
Latitude
F i g u r e 6: The distribution of the thermal forcing at µ = 0.5. Units are nondimensionalized.
The degree of asymmetry of the overturning circulation is controlled
by the asymmetry of the surface-density distribution. Thus an attempt
is made to analyze the asymmetric-state dynamics by first examining how
the degree of asymmetry of the thermal forcing (i.e. no freshwater forcing)
affects the system. The distribution of this thermal forcing is prescribed
such that maximum heating takes place at the equator, cooling occurs at
high latitudes, and there is a pole-to-pole temperature difference giving
rise to the asymmetry. The degree of asymmetry is denoted µ, this being
defined as the ratio between the pole-to-pole temperature difference and
the equator-to-pole temperature difference ∆T , cf. Fig. 6.
Two types of simulations have been undertaken: Those where the degree of asymmetry is taken to be fixed (µ = 0.5) and the magnitude of the
forcing is varied, and those where ∆T = 1 and µ is varied. As for the simulations reported in paper I, the numerical experiments were initiated from
a reference state and the parameter (∆T and µ, respectively) is slightly
increased before each new simulation, which in turn is integrated until a
steady state has been obtained.
For a fixed degree of asymmetry (µ = 0.5) and a varying equatorto-pole temperature difference, the circulation is highly asymmetric and
constituted by two circulation cells: a dominating forward-circulation cell
(attaining its maximum in the northern hemisphere) extending well into the
southern hemisphere, and a subordinate reversed-circulation cell confined
to the surface layers in the southern high latitudes (cf. the upper panels in
Fig. 7).
The first conclusion from the fixed-µ simulations is that only the vertical
structure of the circulation is affected by variations of ∆T , the horizontal
structure being more-or-less independent. This result is presented in Fig. 4
of paper II, from which it is seen that the vertical temperature profiles in
11
Thesis summary
the constant-diffusivity case collapse when first normalized with ∆T and
hereafter stretched with the theoretical thermocline depth scale derived in
paper I.
It has also been concluded that the overturning response for a varying
equator-to-pole temperature difference is consistent with the corresponding
results from paper I, viz. for increasing ∆T the overturning is enhanced for
constant diffusivity and weakened in the stability-dependent case (cf. Fig. 5
in paper II). Hence, the symmetric-flow scaling theory in paper I has proved
to be applicable for asymmetric circulation states when the degree of skewness is retained constant.
The dynamical picture becomes more complex to interpret as the degree of asymmetry is varied. It is recognized that the symmetric-state
scale analysis does not apply in this case. This analysis requires that the
horizontal structure be preserved when the equator-to-pole surface density
difference is varied, which was not the case when the degree of asymmetry
was changed. Instead there is a spatial reorganization of the circulation,
where the dominant cell grows spatially at the expense of the shrinking
subordinate cell. This is seen from Fig. 6 in paper II, showing that the net
poleward meridional heat transport remains more-or-less constant when
µ is varied. It is also recognized that in this case there is no significant
difference between the results from the constant and stability-dependent
diffusivity parameterizations. A discussion of the physical mechanisms underlying this spatial reorganization is also included in paper II.
When mixed boundary conditions are applied, the effects of salinity
make the dynamics more complicated. Simulations have also been performed in this case. These were initiated from the reference state, each
numerical experiment being undertaken after having slightly increased the
freshwater forcing R.
Below a certain threshold value of R the circulation is symmetric, the
salinity acting to reduce the magnitude of the thermally imposed surface
density, cf. Figs. 9 and 11 of paper II. Here the salinity and temperature
fields are strongly correlated (cf. Fig. 7), as previously discussed in paper I.
However, when the freshwater forcing exceeds a critical value, the symmetric mode becomes unstable and is transformed to a fundamentally different
asymmetric steady state, cf. Fig. 10 of paper II where the salinity field is
highly asymmetric and not correlated with the temperature (cf. Fig. 7).
As the freshwater forcing becomes larger the degree of asymmetry increases with R, whereas ∆T remains more-or-less constant (cf. Fig. 11
in paper II). This is in qualitative agreement with the results from the
varying-µ simulations with only thermal forcing.
12
3 Altimetric studies
F i g u r e 7: The temperature, salinity, density and streamfunction fields for a
symmetric state (the upper panels) and for an asymmetric state (the lower panels). The x-axes shows the latitude and the y-axes the depth. All units are
non-dimensionalized.
The overturning response as R increases is similar for both diffusivity
parameterizations, cf. Fig. 12 in paper II. It is, however, recognized that for
stability-dependent diffusivity the degree of asymmetry is more sensitive to
changes of R than when the diffusivity is prescribed as constant.
The results from simulations with mixed boundary conditions where
the freshwater forcing is kept fixed (R = 0.5) and ∆T is varied are also
presented in paper II. In this case it was concluded that the the dominantcell response differs for the two parameterizations. The overturning of the
dominating cell weakens for stability-dependent diffusivity, whereas it is
enhanced for constant diffusivity.
The overall conclusions from paper II are that the horizontal structure
of the circulation varies with the degree of asymmetry, whereas the strength
of the overturning is determined by the equator-to-pole density difference.
When the freshwater forcing is varied and the thermal forcing is retained
constant, it is mainly the degree of asymmetry which changes.
3
Altimetric studies
The discussion of papers I and II above has primarily focused on largerscale aspects of the THC. There are, however, also important more-or-less
local phenomena which affect this circulation. Thus processes in the Nordic
Seas are of preeminent importance for the smooth operation of the presentday THC, since it is in this region that the winter-time convection which
13
Thesis summary
F i g u r e 8: Schematic diagram showing the various components of the satellitemeasured sea-surface height h.
transforms surface water of Atlantic origin to cold deep water takes place.
The Greenland, Iceland and Norwegian Seas are, however, a somewhat inhospitable region for undertaking conventional oceanographic surveys, and
thus satellite altimetry has proved to be a highly useful tool for examining
the circulation characteristics of this area.
Investigations of the sea-surface elevation have played an important
role for physical oceanography ever since the world-wide network of tidal
gauges, on the basis of international agreements, begun to function as a
unified observational system in the early 1880’s. (This global network,
incidentally, received its scientific baptism in the wake of the Krakatoa
tsunami in 1883.) Due to remarkable technical developments in the field
of microwave sensing, satellite altimetry has begun to play an increasingly
important role during the last twenty years for studies of this type.
The measuring principles underlying this observational technique are
schematically demonstrated in Fig. 8. This diagram shows, relative to a reference ellipsoid, the various contributions to the sea-surface height h measured in the course of an altimetric satellite mission such as e.g. TOPEX/Poseidon. The components of h include the geoid undulations hg , tidal variations hT , atmospheric pressure loading ha , and the dynamic sea-surface
height hd associated with geostropically-balanced barotropic currents. Since we have no a priori knowledge of the undulations of the geoid, it is
recognized that all sea-level information originating from satellite data will
be in the form of anomalies relative the long-term observational averages.
In papers III and IV as well as in the subsequent overview, this quantity
will be denoted SLA.
In the present thesis Nordic-Seas anomaly results have been analyzed
in two ways. In paper III focus is thus on the 1992–2004 average seasonal
(winter-to-summer) SLA-differences, whereas paper IV deals with the temporal evolution of the altimetric data series.
14
30°E
3 Altimetric studies
N
15
°E
78°
The Svinøy section
72°N
The Faroe section
66°N
60°N
0
0°
°W N
15 54°
30°W
1000
2000
3000
4000
F i g u r e 9: Map over the Nordic-Seas region showing the bathymetry. The
Svinøy and Faroe sections are labeled in the figure.
3.1
Seasonal anomalies
In Paper III the seasonal variability of the circulation in the Nordic-Seas
region is investigated, primarily on the basis of results from the classical
Svinøy section and a section extending 500 km north-northeastwards from
the Faroe Islands (cf. Fig. 9). The circulation is separated into barotropic
and baroclinic parts, where the former is related to the primarily winddriven horizontal redistribution of mass and the latter to variations of the
hydrography. SLA-differences based on satellite-altimetric measurements
(cf. Fig. 10) are used to estimate the seasonal variations of the barotropic
circulation, and climatological hydrographic data are utilized for estimating
the seasonal variations of the baroclinic circulation. The hydrographic data
have insufficient temporal resolution to permit an analysis over monthly
time-scales, and thus seasonally averaged anomaly data are used, with emphasis on the winter-to-summer differences.
15
Thesis summary
F i g u r e 1 0: The winter-to-summer difference of the sea-surface height in cm.
The white lines represent equidistant isobaths with 1000 m spacing.
16
3 Altimetric studies
Paper III also presents a method to estimate the depth-integrated baroclinic flow associated with the hydrography. From the results, shown in
Fig. 2 of paper III, it can be seen that the magnitude of the winter-tosummer difference of the depth-integrated baroclinic flow is on the order of
5 Sv. It is also recognized that the baroclinic flow anomalies generally are
associated with transports across the isobaths.
To obtain the depth-independent barotropic height anomaly η0 , the
steric-height anomaly is subtracted from the SLA field shown in Fig. 3
of paper III. It becomes evident that η0 is strongly correlated with the
bathymetry, which suggests that the seasonal changes of the barotropic
flow essentially take place along the isobaths (as indeed predicted by basic
dynamic theory). From the figure it is also apparent that the sea level in the
central Nordic Sea basin is depressed during winter, indicating that a largescale re-circulation takes place in the interior of the Nordic Seas. Hence
it is of considerable interest to examine whether this re-circulation can be
separated from the Atlantic inflow of warm saline water over the IcelandScotland Ridge into the Nordic Seas. This investigation is undertaken using
results from the Svinøy and Faroe sections (cf. Fig. 9).
The winter-to-summer difference of the total surface-layer velocity can
be calculated using the SLA data and assuming that the flow is geostrophically balanced. Figs. 5 and 8 of paper III, pertaining to the Svinøy and
Faroe transects, respectively, show the calculated normal-velocity anomalies, which mainly are directed eastwards. An exception is, however, encountered at bottom depths around 2500 m, where the flows are have the
opposite direction. For the Svinøy section this feature can be seen in drifter
data by Jakobsen et al. (2003). For the Faroe section it is argued that this is
due to the presence of the Iceland-Faroe front, which on account of stronger
forcing is more pronounced during winter than in summer. These winterto-summer variations of the permanent Iceland-Faroe front are discussed
by analyzing the salinity field for the Faroe section (cf. Fig. 7 of paper III).
The winter-to-summer differences of the depth-integrated barotropic
and baroclinic transports (the latter estimated using the analytical methods
derived in the appendix of paper III) are presented in Figs. 6 and 9 of paper
III. From these results it is recognized that the baroclinic transport is much
smaller than the barotropic one. However, the main conclusion to be drawn
from these figures is that the accumulated barotropic transport anomaly
is on the order of 10 Sv through both the Svinøy and Faroe transects.
This is considerably larger than the classical estimate (Worthington, 1970)
of the Iceland-to-Scotland surface-water inflow (7 Sv). This discrepancy is,
most likely, associated with the central Norwegian-Sea re-circulation, which
17
Thesis summary
has been examined using a salinity representation of the winter-to-summer
barotropic transport difference, cf. Fig. 12 of paper III. This diagram shows
that the transport anomalies pertaining to low-saline waters (characterized
by salinities below 35) are associated with the re-circulation in the interior
of the Nordic Seas, whereas the “high-saline”transport anomalies are linked
to the Atlantic inflow. The magnitude of the re-circulation anomaly is 8 Sv,
viz. in broad agreement with numerical-model results (Isachsen et al., 2003).
The high-saline barotropic transport across the Svinøy transect was found
to be around 3 Sv larger during winter than in summer, i.e. the same order
of magnitude as that of estimates based on measurements (Orvik et al.,
2001).
3.2
Low-frequency variability
The main focus of paper IV is on the variability of the barotropic flow and
the wind stress in the Norwegian Sea over time-scales ranging from months
to years. An analytical theory, inspired by some ideas due to Walin (1972),
is presented for how the low-frequency wind forcing primarily generates a
barotropic flow along contours of constant depth. After introducing some
auxiliary assumptions (e.g. that the Coriolis parameter is constant and that
the buoyancy field is horizontally uniform), is possible to calculate an averaged along-isobath velocity using sea-level information and bathymetric
data. This isobath-averaged velocity can be calculated from the wind stress
using a linear differential equation. Similar studies have been undertaken
by Isachsen et al. (2003); Nøst and Isachsen (2003) as well as by Nilsson
et al. (2005).
In paper IV the along-isobath velocity is estimated for the closed 2500m isobath girdling the Norwegian and Lofoten basins. This is done in two
ways: SLA data from satellite measurements yield V SLA , and wind data
from a re-analysis model yield V w .
Before V SLA and V w were compared, it was concluded that the isobathaveraging method is capable of isolating a large-scale coherent signal from
the SLA data. An auto-correlation analysis has also been undertaken to
determine the damping parameter in the linear differential equation used
for calculating V w .
The low-frequency variability of V SLA and V w proved to be essentially
coherent, as seen from Fig. 5 of paper IV. However, the amplitudes differ
by a factor of two, which can be due to e.g. steric and baroclinic effects,
the choice of the damping parameter, and the resolution of the SLA and
wind fields. Nevertheless, it has been concluded that the Norwegian-Sea
18
4 Overview and outlook
re-circulation gyre is predominantly forced by the local wind stress.
One of the main aims of paper IV is to compare and to, if possible,
distinguish between the flow along closed isobaths and that along open isobaths extending over the Iceland-Scotland Ridge into the North Atlantic
proper. The flow along an open isobath transgressing the classical Svinøy
section (cf. Fig. 9) is thus also examined. Here the Norwegian Atlantic
Slope Current (NwASC) is located over the depth interval 300–800 m (Skagseth, 2004), i.e. well separated from the re-circulation gyre. The working
hypothesis is that the NwASC, originating in the Atlantic proper at the
Irish-Scottish shelf, should be subjected to wind forcing taking place at a
considerable distance from the Norwegian Sea.
The velocity of the NwASC at Svinøy was estimated using altimetry
data, with an approximation of the averaged SLA difference along the 750m isobath at Svinøy constituting a proxy for the NwASC.
The correspondence between this NwASC proxy and the re-circulation
in the central Norwegian Sea is presented in Fig. 6 of paper IV. It is recognized that for certain periods the two flows co-vary, but there are also
instances when the flows appear to be decoupled.
To investigate the extent to which the NwASC is coherent with the
large-scale wind patterns, the NwASC proxy was compared to the NAO
index as well as to the integrated wind stress along the 500-m isobath.
The result of these comparisons is that there is a fair degree of agreement
between the NwASC proxy and these wind indices.
4
Overview and outlook
The present study is partly based on the use of zonally-averaged modelling
techniques, partly on the application of satellite-altimetric observations.
It is hoped that the considerations presented in this thesis summary has
helped to convince the reader that a viable path for future climate studies
may lie in a fruitful combination of modelling and empirical studies. As
regards the latter type of investigations, the present thesis has had its
focus on satellite altimetry. It is, however, important to underline that
standard hydrography of the type most recently obtained on a world-wide
scale in connection with the international WOCE programme also has an
important role to play. An interesting example of a climatologically relevant
long-duration hydrographic time-series is provided by the classical FaroeShetland section, also known as the Nolsøy-Flugga transect with reference
to its endpoints. Regular surveys of this important choke-point for the
inflow of Atlantic surface water to the Norwegian Sea began towards the
19
Thesis summary
end of the 19th century (Turrell et al., 1999). Since this section is still
regularly surveyed, the results constitute one of the longest oceanographical
series available for climatological research.
When attention is directed toward the field of numerical modelling, it is
relevant to underline that it is highly likely that within the foreseeable future nonhydrostatic global models will be implemented for the entire oceanatmosphere system (Held and Suarez, 1994). These models will presumably
be capable of doing better justice to convection processes (of crucial importance for the global THC) than those operational today. Hence one might
speculate that many present-day modelling results will stand a risk of losing
their immediate relevance. Not least in view of this in view of this dystopic
perspective it must be emphasized that the highly simplified 2-dimensional
ocean-circulation models applied in the present thesis may be somewhat
more resistant to the winds of change. Another appealing feature of these
models is that they only are expected to provide lowest-order results for
identifying critical processes, which, it is hoped, will remain invariant.
To conclude, it is thus suggested that it is not a priori given that highly
complex three-dimensional modelling of the atmosphere-ocean system represents the only way ahead for climatological studies. The presents thesis
has attempted to demonstrate that simplified models as well as empirical
observations also may have an important role to play.
20
Bibliography
Bibliography
Bryan, F., 1986. High-latitude salinity effects and interhemispheric thermohaline circulations. Nature 323 (6086), 301–304.
Held, I., Suarez, M. J., 1994. A proposal for the intercomparison of the dynamical cores of atmospheric general circulation models. Bulletin of the
American Meteorological Society 75 (10), 1825–1830, doi:10.1175/15200477(1994)075<1825:APFTIO>2.0.CO;2.
Helland-Hansen, B., Nansen, F., 1909. The Norwegian Sea, its physical
oceanography. based on the Norwegian researches 1900–1904. Report on
Norwegian fishery and marine investigations 2 (2), 1–359.
Huang, R. X., 1999. Mixing and energetics of the oceanic thermohaline circulation. Journal of Physical Oceanography 29 (4), 727–746,
doi:10.1175/1520-0485(1999)029<0727:MAEOTO>2.0.CO;2.
Isachsen, P. E., LaCasce, J. H., Mauritzen, C., Häkkinen, S., 2003. Winddriven variability of the large-scale recirculating flow in the Nordic Seas
and Arctic Ocean. Journal of Physical Oceanography 33 (12), 2534–2550,
doi:10.1175/1520-0485(2003)033<2534:WVOTLR>2.0.CO;2.
Jakobsen, P. K., Ribergaard, M. H., Quadfasel, D., Schmith, T.,
Hughes, C. W., 2003. Near-surface circulation in the northern North
Atlantic as inferred from Lagrangian drifters: Variability from the
mesoscale to interannual. Journal of Geophysical Research 108 (C8),
3251, doi:10.1029/2002JC001554.
Knudsen, M., 1899. Hydrografi. Den Danske Ingolf-expedition 1 (2).
Marotzke, J., Welander, P., Willebrand, J., 1988. Instability and multiple
steady states in a meridional-plane model of the thermohaline circulation.
Tellus, Series A 40 (2), 162–172.
Mohn, H., 1885. Die Strömungen des Europäischen Nordmeeres. Petermanns Geographische Mitteilungen 7.
Mohn, H., 1887. Nordhavets dyber, temp. og ströminger. Den Norske
Nordhavs-Expedition, 1876–1878 2 (2).
Nilsson, J., Broström, G., Walin, G., 2003. The thermohaline circulation
and vertical mixing: Does weaker density stratification give stronger
overturning? Journal of Physical Oceanography 33 (12), 2781–2795,
doi:10.1175/1520-0485(2003)033<2781:TTCAVM>2.0.CO;2.
21
Thesis summary
Nilsson, J., Broström, G., Walin, G., 2005. Steady f-plane circulation arising from a prescribed buoyancy distribution in basins with sloping boundaries; or the role of bottom friction for creating a thermohaline circulation, submitted to Journal of Marine Research.
Nilsson, J., Walin, G., 2001. Freshwater forcing as a booster of thermohaline circulation. Tellus, Series A 53 (5), 629–641, doi:10.1034/j.16000870.2001.00263.x.
Nordenskiöld, A. E., 1885. Den andra Dicksonska expeditionen till Grönland. Beijer förlag, Stockholm.
Nøst, O., Isachsen, P., 2003. The large-scale time-mean ocean circulation in the Nordic Seas and Arctic Ocean estimated from
simplified dynamics. Journal of Marine Research 61 (2), 175–210,
doi:10.1357/002224003322005069.
Orvik, K. A., Skagseth, Ø., Mork, M., 2001. Atlantic inflow to the Nordic
Seas: current structure and volume fluxes from moored current meters,
VM-ADCP and SeaSoar-CTD observations, 1995-1999. Deep Sea Research Part I 48 (4), 937–957, doi:10.1016/S0967-0637(00)00038-8.
Rahmstorf, S., 2000. The thermohaline ocean circulation: a system with dangerous thresholds? Climatic Change 46 (3), 247–256,
doi:10.1023/A:1005648404783.
Skagseth, Ø., 2004. Monthly to annual variability of the Norwegian Atlantic Slope Current: Connection between the northern North Atlantic
and the Norwegian Sea. Deep-Sea Research Part I 51 (3), 349–366,
doi:10.1016/j.dsr.2003.10.014.
Spieß, F., 1928. Die Meteor-Fahrt — Forschungen und Erlebnisse der
Deutschen Atlantischen Expedition 1925–1927. Reimer, Berlin.
Thomson, S. C. W., 1878. The Voyage of the Challenger. The Atlantic.
Harper & Brothers, New York.
Turrell, W. R., Slesser, G., Adams, R. D., Payne, R., Gillibrand, P. A.,
January 1999. Decadal variability in the composition of faroe shetland
channel bottom water. Deep Sea Research Part I: Oceanographic Research Papers 46 (1), 1–25, doi:10.1016/S0967-0637(98)00067-3.
Walin, G., 1972. On the hydrographic response to transient meteorological
disturbances. Tellus 24, 169–186.
22
Bibliography
Welander, P., 1986. Thermohaline effects in the ocean circulation and related simple models. In: Willebrand, J., Anderson, D. L. T. (Eds.),
Large-Scale Transport Processes in Oceans and Atmosphere. D. Reidel
publishing company, pp. 163–200.
Wild, J. J., 1877. Thalassa: an essay on the depth, temperature and currents of the ocean. Marcus Ward & Co., London.
Worthington, L. V., 1970. The Norwegian Sea as a Mediterranean basin.
Deep-Sea Research 17, 77–84.
Wright, D. G., Stocker, T. F., 1991. A zonally averaged ocean model for the
thermohaline circulation. Part I: Model development and flow dynamics.
Journal of Physical Oceanography 21 (12), 1713–1724, doi:10.1175/15200485(1991)021<1713:AZAOMF>2.0.CO;2.
23
Pa p e r I
The role of diapycnal
mixing for the equilibrium
response of thermohaline
circulation
R e z wa n M o h a m m a d a n d J o h a n N i l s s o n
Ocean Dynamics, 2004, 54(1), 54–65
Abstract
Using a zonally averaged, one-hemispheric numerical model of the thermohaline circulation, the dependence of the overturning strength on the
surface equator-to-pole density difference is investigated. It is found that
the qualitative behavior of the thermohaline circulation depends crucially
on the nature of the small-scale vertical mixing in the interior of the ocean.
Two different representations of this process are considered: constant vertical diffusivity and the case where the rate of mixing energy supply is taken
to be a fixed quantity, implying that the vertical diffusivity decreases with
increasing stability of the water column. When the stability-dependent
diffusivity parameterization is applied, a weaker density difference is associated with a stronger circulation, contrary to the results for a fixed
diffusivity. A counterintuitive consequence of the stability-dependent mixing is that the poleward atmospheric freshwater flux, which acts to reduce the thermally imposed density contrast, strengthens the thermally
dominated circulation and its attendant poleward heat transport. However, for a critical value of the freshwater forcing, the thermally dominated
branch of steady states becomes unstable, and is succeeded by strongly
time-dependent states that oscillate between phases of forward and partly
reversed circulation. When a constant vertical diffusivity is employed, on
the other hand, the thermally dominated circulation is replaced by a steady
salinity-dominated state with reversed flow. Thus in this model, the features of the vertical mixing are essential for the steady-state response to
freshwater forcing as well as for the character of flow that is attained when
the thermally dominated circulation becomes unstable.
27
Paper I
1
Introduction
The view that freshwater forcing, associated with the meridional atmospheric transport of water vapor, curtails and destabilizes the thermohaline
circulation is deeply rooted inside as well as outside the scientific community. The argument behind this notion is straightforward and based on
two considerations; pro primo, the fact that the freshwater forcing creates
a salinity field that reduces the thermally imposed equator to pole-density
difference and pro secundo, the assumption that the thermohaline circulation is favored by a strong equator-to-pole density difference. Furthermore,
this view seems to be supported by the results from a large body of numerical ocean circulation studies (e.g. Marotzke et al., 1988; Weaver et al.,
1993; Park and Bryan, 2000).
Contrary to established wisdom, however, a number of recent investigations (Lyle, 1997; Huang, 1999; Nilsson and Walin, 2001) have concluded
that it is fully possible that the thermohaline circulation may intensify,
rather than slow down, in response to a weaker equator-to-pole density difference. The relation between vertical mixing and the stratification is at the
heart of this remarkable result, and the underlying physics are straightforward: Consider thermohaline circulation in a one-hemisphere basin, where
a thermocline separates the warm poleward-flowing water in the upper
ocean from the cold water beneath. Suppose now that the equator-to-pole
density difference suddenly is reduced and that the ocean adjusts to the
new forcing. Regardless of the details of vertical mixing, we will observe
two changes after the adjustment; the speed of the poleward-flowing warm
water has decreased, and the depth of the thermocline has increased. The
latter change serves to augment the net poleward flow, whereas the former
acts to hamper it. It is here the properties of vertical mixing, which controls the response of thermocline depth, become crucial: If the turbulent
vertical diffusivity is assumed to be fixed — the standard assumption in
ocean modeling — the net poleward flow will decline. On the other hand, if
the diffusivity increases as the stratification becomes weaker — a physically
reasonable behavior — the net poleward transport may amplify. Based on
these considerations, Nilsson and Walin (2001) advanced the idea that the
reduction in the equator-to-pole density difference caused by the salinity
field may serve to strengthen the thermohaline circulation, rather than to
weaken it.
In fact, the numerical one-hemisphere simulations due to Huang (1999)
and Nilsson et al. (2003) have demonstrated that if the vertical mixing is
suppressed by strong stratification, the strength of thermohaline circulation
28
2 Scaling analysis
decreases with increasing equator-to-pole density difference. Both these
studies dealt with purely thermal flows, forced by a prescribed distribution
of sea-surface temperature. However, when the circulation is forced by a
prescribed sea surface temperature as well as by a freshwater flux (i.e. mixed
boundary conditions), the surface density distribution becomes a function
of the flow. As pointed out by Stommel (1961), this implies that there may
exist multiple equilibria. In addition to the thermally dominated circulation
of the forward type — the mode studied by Huang (1999) and Nilsson
et al. (2003) — there generally exist equilibria with reversed flow where the
salinity field dominates the density distribution (e.g. Welander, 1986; Thual
and McWilliams, 1992; Weaver et al., 1993). Further, there may exist an
upper bound on the freshwater forcing, beyond which an equilibrium with
forward circulation cannot be attained.
A main purpose of the present study is to explore how the representation
of vertical mixing affects the overturning dynamics when the circulation
is forced by mixed boundary conditions. To address this issue, a twodimensional numerical model has been employed and simulations have been
carried out for a broad range of surface forcing. The model is a zonallyaveraged representation of thermohaline circulation in a single-hemisphere
basin. As a preliminary to the numerical investigation, a scale analysis
of thermohaline flows is presented. Basically, this analysis follows that
of Nilsson and Walin (2001). However, a theoretical investigation of the
dynamics in the limit where the thermocline depth approaches the ocean
bottom represents a novel contribution; an issue followed up in the analyses
of the numerical simulations. It is emphasized that this is an idealized
study addressing a problem of basic importance for the dynamics of the
thermohaline circulation. As with all idealized models, there are caveats
associated with this study. Thus in the concluding section, the relevance
of our findings for the real ocean are subjected to a critical discussion.
2
Scaling analysis
Our first step is to apply a simple scale analysis to the thermohaline circulation in order to judge how its strength is related to the equator-to-pole
density difference and the specifics of the vertical mixing. As background
it is instructive to consider a meridional cross-section of potential density
distribution in the Atlantic basin (cf. Fig. 1). These observations suggest
that, as a first approximation, the ocean may be regarded as stratified
where a thin upper layer of light water is separated from a deep, nearly
homogeneous layer of dense water by a pycnocline. Furthermore the obser29
Paper I
Atlantic potential density
0
27
Depth [m]
1000
27.5
2000
3000
4000
PSfrag replacements
5000
−50
0
50
Latitude [degrees]
F i g u r e 1: Meridional potential density cross-section in the Atlantic basin
along 30◦ west latitude. Density in units of kg/m3 −1000. Contour interval
is 0.5 kg/m3 . Data is from Levitus (1982).
vations indicate that the equator-to-pole density difference at the surface
to lowest order equals the vertical density difference at low latitudes.
In what follows a one-hemispheric basin is considered1 (cf. Fig. 2). The
equator-to-pole density difference at the surface (∆ρ) is prescribed, whereas
the depth of the pycnocline (H) and the circulation (ψ) are to be predicted.
The depth of the basin is denoted D, the poleward volume transport is ψI
and the diapycnal volume transport upwards is ψII . Here the depth of
the pycnocline is assumed to be small, H/D 1. (The case when the
pycnocline depth is large, H ∼ D, is dealt with separately.)
In the scale analysis the circulation is assumed to be in hydrostatic and
geostrophic balance, which implies (Welander, 1986) that the thermal wind
relation is valid:
∂v
g ∂ρ
=−
·
.
∂z
f ρ0 ∂x
Here x and z are the independent coordinates in the zonal and vertical
directions, respectively, v is the meridional velocity, g the gravity, f the
Coriolis parameter, ρ the density, and ρ0 a reference density. Furthermore,
1 Here, the one-hemisphere geometry may be viewed as a conceptual representation
of a general thermohaline flow where the low-latitude upwelling is routed towards the
sinking regions in near-surface currents; see also the discussion in the concluding section.
30
2 Scaling analysis
O
H
O
ψI =⇒
O ∆ρ
⇑
ψII
D
F i g u r e 2: Sketch of a simple one-hemisphere two-layer system.
vertical advection is assumed to balance vertical diffusion (Munk, 1966):
∂
∂ρ
∂ρ
=
w
κ
,
∂z
∂z
∂z
where w is the vertical velocity and κ is the diffusivity coefficient representing the vertical small-scale mixing.
To estimate the overturning circulation, the poleward and diapycnal
flows have to be determined. The former quantity is scaled using the
thermal wind relation, where the zonal density gradient is assumed to
be proportional to that in the meridional direction, a conjecture which
is supported by results from three-dimensional modeling (e.g. Wright and
Stocker, 1991; Wright et al., 1998; Park and Bryan, 2000). This proportionality implies that the poleward volume transport scales as
ψI ∼
g
· ∆ρ · H 2 .
f ρ0
(1)
Assuming that the advective-diffusive balance controls the stratification,
the diapycnal flow scales as
ψII ∼ A ·
κ
,
H
(2)
where A is the area of the low-latitude stratified part of the basin where
the upwelling occurs. Note that in a more general case, where the globally
integrated thermohaline circulation is considered, A should be interpreted
as the effective area of the low-latitude upwelling in all ocean basins.
In a steady state the poleward and diapycnal flows must be equal, yielding the following relation between the pycnocline depth and the density
difference:
1/3
f ρ0 A
· κ1/3 · ∆ρ−1/3 .
(3)
H∼
g
31
Paper I
Substituting this result in eq. (1) or (2) the steady-state overturning is
obtained:
2 1/3
gA
· κ2/3 · ∆ρ1/3 ,
(4)
ψ∼
f ρ0
which shows that the strength of the overturning is controlled by density
as well as by vertical diffusivity.
2.1
Vertical mixing
The postulated physical basis of the vertical mixing, which controls the relation between diffusivity and density difference, plays an important role. A
classical assumption concerning the vertical mixing is to keep the diffusivity fixed, viz. independent of the vertical stability. This parameterization,
which is frequently used in ocean-circulation models, implies that the overturning scales as
ψ ∼ ∆ρ1/3 .
(5)
The strength of the overturning is enhanced as the density difference increases, consonant with the established view (Park and Bryan, 2000). Note,
however, that the response of the overturning to changes in ∆ρ is weaker
than linear: According to eq. (3), the pycnocline depth decreases with ∆ρ
as H ∼ ∆ρ−1/3 , which, in view of eq. (1), acts to curtail the overturning. An increase of ∆ρ does not only yield stronger meridional velocities,
but also a more shallow pycnocline which inhibits the strengthening of the
poleward transport.
Although κ frequently is assumed to be fixed in ocean modeling, straightforward energy considerations suggest that κ in fact depends on the vertical density difference (which is roughly proportional to the equator-to-pole
density difference ∆ρ). In a stratified fluid, small-scale vertical mixing
(quantified in terms of κ) creates potential energy (Munk and Wunsch,
1998) as
Z
κN 2 dz,
E = ρ0
(6)
where E is the rate of increase in potential energy per unit area and N the
buoyancy frequency, defined by
N2 = −
g ∂ρ
.
ρ0 ∂z
It is reasonable to assume that the rate of energy supply to small-scale
mixing from e.g. winds and tides is constant, which implies that also E, the
32
2 Scaling analysis
Overturning
Overturning response diagram
PSfrag replacements
Density difference
F i g u r e 3: Qualitative response diagram showing overturning as a function
of the density difference between equator and pole for constant (solid) and
stratification-dependent (dashed) diffusivity, respectively, according to the scale
analysis (eq. 5 and 8).
production rate of potential energy, should be constant. This argument,
originally advanced by Kato and Phillips (1969), when applied to eq. (6)
yields the following dependence of the vertical diffusivity coefficient on the
density difference:
E
κ∼
.
(7)
g∆ρ
Thus, if the rate of energy supply available for small-scale vertical mixing
is taken to be fixed, a stronger vertical density difference implies a smaller
diffusivity. Using this result in eq. (4) yields that the overturning scales as
ψ ∼ ∆ρ−1/3 .
(8)
As seen from Fig. 3, the two representations of mixing give rise to strikingly
different overturning characteristics. If the diffusivity is constant the overturning intensifies with an increasing equator-to-pole density difference,
whereas it weakens if the diffusivity is dependent on the vertical stability.
The pycnocline depth decreases with density difference (H ∼ ∆ρ−2/3 ,
cf. eq. 3) more rapidly than in the previous case when the diffusivity was
taken to be constant, having the somewhat counter-intuitive consequence
that the circulation slows down.
2.2
Effects of finite basin depth
For fixed mixing energy, the overturning increases beyond bounds when
∆ρ approaches zero (cf. eq. 8). This raises the question whether the scale
33
Paper I
analysis is valid in the regime when the density difference is small.
According to eq. (3) also the pycnocline depth becomes unbounded as
∆ρ approaches zero. As a result the pycnocline will eventually approach
the bottom of the basin, H ∼ D. When this occurs, the depth scale of the
stratification is controlled by the geometry rather than by the advectivediffusive balance (eq. 2), which becomes redundant. Hence the circulation
is only governed by the thermal wind relation:
ψ∼
gD2
· ∆ρ.
f ρ0
(9)
According to this result the strength of the circulation responds in a linear
fashion to changes in ∆ρ. This result is independent of the representation
of the diffusivity and is consequently valid for constant as well as stabilitydependent diffusivity.
For fixed diffusivity, the response to changes of the density difference
is weaker in the regime where ∆ρ is large (H/D 1) than in the regime
where it is small (H ∼ D). Nevertheless, the derivative of the response
has the same sign in both regimes. However, for fixed mixing energy the
derivative changes sign between the regimes. The response is negative for
large ∆ρ, whereas it is positive for small ∆ρ. Consequently the strength of
the circulation should assume a maximum for the specific density difference
that yields H ∼ D, which can be determined using eq. (3):
1/2
f ρ0 AE
∆ρm ∼
· D−3/2 .
g2
Applying this result to eq. (9) the maximum strength of the circulation is:
1/2
AE
ψm ∼
· D1/2 .
f ρ0
Thus, the maximum possible overturning strength increases with the
basin depth as well as with the rate of increase in potential energy due to
mixing (i.e. AE). However, it may be noted that ψm is not very sensitive
to changes in these parameters; for instance a doubling of D yields only an
increase in ψm of about 40 %.
3
The model
These results spurred us to investigate whether the two representations of
the diffusivity yield similar results in an idealized numerical thermohaline
34
3 The model
circulation model. We use a zonally-averaged, two-dimensional, thermohaline circulation model similar to the ones previously employed in various
climate studies (Marotzke et al., 1988; Wright and Stocker, 1991), although
the model domain in the present study is taken to encompass solely one
hemisphere.
3.1
Governing equations
Essentially, the derivation of the zonally averaged model equations follows
Marotzke et al. (1988). The model describes a Boussinesq fluid in hydrostatic equilibrium, confined within a basin of constant depth (D) and zonal
width (B) that has the meridional length L. The horizontal momentum
equation is
1 ∂p
,
(10)
γv = −
ρ0 ∂y
where v is the zonally averaged meridional velocity, γ is a closure parameter
relating flow speed and pressure gradient, ρ0 is the reference density, p is
the zonally averaged pressure and y is the meridional coordinate. The basic
closure hypothesis underlying eq. (10) is that the east-west and the northsouth pressure gradients are proportional (see e.g. Wright et al., 1998, for
an extensive discussion of flow representations in zonally averaged models).
The hydrostatic balance is given by
∂p
= −ρg,
∂z
(11)
where ρ is the zonally averaged density and z is the vertical coordinate.
Conservation of mass yields:
∂v
∂w
+
= 0,
∂y
∂z
(12)
where w is the zonally averaged vertical velocity. The conservation of heat
and salt is given by
∂ T
∂ T
∂
∂ T
∂ T
+v
+w
=
κ
,
(13)
∂t S
∂y S
∂z S
∂z
∂z S
where T and S is the zonally averaged temperature and salinity, respectively, and κ is the vertical diffusivity. For simplicity a linear equation of
state is used:
ρ(S, T ) = ρ0 (1 − αT + βS) ,
(14)
35
Paper I
where α and β are expansion coefficients for heat and salt, here taken
to be constants. For this two-dimensional system it proves convenient to
introduce a meridional streamfunction ψ:
Bv = −
∂ψ
,
∂z
Bw =
∂ψ
,
∂y
where ψ satisfies mass conservation (eq. 12) and B is the zonal width of
the basin.
By eliminating the pressure in the horizontal momentum balance (eq. 10)
and the hydrostatic balance (eq. 11), rewriting the velocity in terms of the
streamfunction, and, using the equation of state (eq. 14), the following
relation is obtained:
g
∂S
∂T
∂2ψ
=
−B
·
·
β
−
α
.
(15)
∂z 2
γ
∂y
∂y
This equation is used to calculate the streamfunction from temperature
and salinity.
It is relevant to note that this zonally averaged model can be scaled
using the same procedure as outlined in section 2. If this is carried through,
one finds that the pycnocline depth obeys
H ∼ (γρ0 L2 /g)1/3 · κ1/3 · ∆ρ−1/3 ,
and the overturning obeys
ψ ∼ (gL4 /γρ0 )1/3 · (B/L) · κ2/3 · ∆ρ1/3 .
The scale dependence of H and ψ on κ and ∆ρ derived in section 2 thus
also applies for the zonally averaged model, which is a consequence of the
horizontal momentum closure (10) employed here.
3.2
Boundary conditions
We are dealing with a basin of meridional extent L and depth D. No
transport takes place through the solid boundaries, implying that ψ = 0
here. Neither heat nor salinity fluxes through the bottom are permitted,
viz.
∂S
∂T
=
= 0.
∂z
∂z
At the surface the temperature is prescribed:
π ∆T · 1 + cos y ·
,
Ttop (y) =
2
L
36
3 The model
where the temperature has a maximum ∆T at the equator and equals zero
at the pole. The salinity is dynamically controlled through a prescribed
salinity flux F at the surface:
π
∂S
F (y) = −F0 · cos y ·
= −κ ,
L
∂z
where F0 is the magnitude of the maximum salinity flux. The physical interpretation of this prescribed distribution is that maximal net evaporation
and precipitation take place at the equator and pole, respectively.
3.3
Parameterization of the diffusivity
The two different representations of mixing described above have been implemented for the model. In the first case κ is prescribed as a constant,
κ0 , and is thus independent of the density stratification. In the second
case κ is taken to be inversely proportional to ∆ρ (cf. eq. 7), which is the
horizontal average of the top-to-bottom density difference. Specifically κ
has been given the form:
∆ρr
κ = κ0 ·
,
∆ρ
where ∆ρr is a density difference used for reference purposes, and
Z
1 L
∆ρ =
(ρtop − ρbottom ) dy,
L 0
where the integrand is the vertical density difference between the surface
and the bottom. In order to prevent too high κ-values for weak density
differences, an upper limit is set at 10 · κ0 .
3.4
Numerical procedures
Eq. (13) is discretized using a leap-frog scheme and the calculations are
initiated using Eulerian forward stepping. At each time step the streamfunction is calculated by integrating eq. (15) twice. The spatial derivatives
are discretized using centered differences. A staggered grid is employed,
with the streamfunction in the corners and temperature and salinity at
the center. The temperature and salinity resolutions are 51 × 41 in the
horizontal and vertical direction respectively.
In order to ensure numerical stability, horizontal diffusion, Asselin filtering and horizontal three-point smoothing of the streamfunction are included in the computational scheme. The horizontal diffusivity constant
37
Paper I
is taken to be 160 m2 /s and the Asselin time-filter constant is set to 0.1.
Note that the horizontal diffusivity was taken to be as small as possible but
yet large enough to suppresses numerical noise and instability. The present
diffusivity value should be so low that it has no significant effect on the
large scale flow. Convective adjustment following Yin and Sarachik (1994),
has furthermore been incorporated to inhibit unstable stratification.
The fluid is initially at rest, at which time the temperature and salinity
are taken to be constant in the basin. The time step used in the simulations
is 12 hours. The model is run until a steady state has been reached.
3.5
Reference state
We introduce a reference state that broadly corresponds to the presentday ocean, specified by the following parameters: ∆Tr = 25 ◦ C, κ0 =
10−4 m2 /s, D = 3000 m, B = 6000 km, L = 6000 km, α = 2 · 10−4 ◦ C−1 ,
β = 8 · 10−4 , γ = 1.8 · 10−3 s−1 . Note that γ should be regarded as a
tuning parameter, here adjusted so that the model yields ocean-like results
for the parameter values introduced above. Note further that the freshwater
forcing is zero in the reference state and that the thermally induced equatorto-pole density difference, ∆ρr , is 5 kg/m3 .
The reference state is the steady-state model solution that in the absence of freshwater forcing results from this parameter specification. In the
reference state, the two mixing representations yield, by construction, an
identical vertical diffusivity and consequently also identical model solutions.
Fig. 4 shows the temperature distribution as well as the streamfunction for
this thermally forced reference state. The resulting circulation is of the
forward, thermally-dominated type, characterized by “narrow” sinking at
high latitudes and “broad” upwelling at low latitudes. Note that the thermal stratification, with its well-defined thermocline, displays qualitative
similarities with the real ocean.
It should be underlined that the reference state is characterized by a
single non-dimensional parameter:
σ = (γρ0 L2 /g)1/3 · κ1/3 · ∆ρ−1/3 · D−1 ,
(16)
which controlls the ratio between the thermocline depth and the basin
depth. Provided that this parameter is chosen to yield a realistic thermocline depth, the actual strength of the overturning is basically irrelevant
for the dynamics of the model.
To compare the present simulations with previous numerical and analytical investigations, it is useful to introduce a non-dimensional measure of
38
3 The model
Temperature and streamfunction
T
20
15
10
5
Depth
6
5
4
3
PSfrag replacements
2
1
B
E
P
Latitude
F i g u r e 4: Reference state temperature (solid lines) and streamfunction (dotted
lines) in the basin at steady-state, described in the text in section 3.5. The
numbers are given in ◦ C and Sv respectively. The x-axis is in the meridional
direction and the y-axis in the vertical. E is the equator, P the pole, T the top
and B the bottom.
the freshwater forcing, which is here termed R. This parameter is defined
as the ratio between the haline buoyancy flux, due to the surface salinity
flux, and the thermal buoyancy flux associated with the simulated poleward heat transport in the reference state (say Qr ). The former buoyancy
flux is given by βF0 BL/π; which implies that
R=
βF0 BLcp ρ0
,
αQr π
(17)
where cp is the heat capacity of seawater. Note that it is F0 that sets the
strength of surface salinity flux and that Qr = 0.15 PW.
It can be noted that the present tuning produces an overturning strength
and a heat transport that are similar to those obtain from three dimensional
models in comparable geometry (see e.g. Nilsson et al., 2003). The observed
northward heat transport in the Atlantic, on the other hand, is on the order of 1 PW. This discrepancy in heat transports is related to wind-driven
circulation as well as to the fact that the real Atlantic receives thermocline
water that has upwelled in the Indo-Pacific basin.
39
Paper I
4
Results
Two types of numerical experiments are presented in what follows: Those
with only thermal forcing, and those where the circulation is forced by
mixed boundary conditions. The thermal forcing is provided by the equatorto-pole surface temperature gradient, where the magnitude ∆T is changed
for each simulation and the resulting steady-state is subsequently examined.
For the experiments with mixed boundary conditions, a fixed equator-topole temperature gradient, ∆T = ∆Tr , is applied, whereas R the strength
of the freshwater forcing, is varied for each simulation.
4.1
Thermal forcing
When the system only is subjected to thermal forcing, the salinity is set
to zero and thus density is only a function of temperature. The investigation has been carried through on the basis of a series of experiments with
the forcing being increased for each simulation, whereafter the overturning
strength at steady-state has been measured. The magnitude of the forcing
is given by ∆T and the strength of the steady-state overturning is measured by the maximum value of the streamfunction in a centrally located
column, maxz∈[0,D] [ψ(y ∼ L/2, z)]. Fig. 5 shows the overturning strength
as a function of the equator-to-pole temperature difference. In this diagram
the results from the numerical experiments, together with the relationships
obtained from the scale analysis (eq. 5, 8 and 9), are shown for the fixed
as well as the stability-dependent diffusivity.
In the regime where the equator-to-pole temperature difference is sizable (∆T & 5 ◦ C), there is a qualitative difference between the overturning
response for the two different diffusivity parameterizations. In agreement
with the scale-analysis results (cf. eq. 5 and 8), the strength of the overturning intensifies with equator-to-pole temperature difference using the
constant-diffusivity parameterization, whereas it becomes weaker for the
stability-dependent diffusivity parameterization.
This may be contrasted with the behavior in the regime where the
equator-to-pole temperature difference is small (∆T . 5 ◦ C). Here the
overturning strength increases with the temperature difference for both diffusivity representations. Consonant with the scale-analysis results (cf. eq. 9)
the overturning strength is essentially proportional to the density contrast.
According to the theoretical considerations the response of the overturning is intimately related to the response of the thermocline depth, given as
H ∼ ∆T −1/3 and H ∼ ∆T −2/3 , respectively, for the two different diffusivity representations (cf. eq. 3). In order to investigate how the thermocline
40
4 Results
Overturning
Overturning response diagram
1
PSfrag replacements
0.1
1
10
Temperature difference
F i g u r e 5: Response of the overturning as function of equator-to-pole temperature difference, ∆T , for constant (circles) and stratification dependent (squares)
diffusivity, respectively. The flow is thermally forced and the overturning as well
as the temperature difference is normalized at ∆T = ∆Tr . Numbers are nondimensional. Dotted and dash-dotted lines are results of the scale analysis for
constant and stratification dependent diffusivity, respectively (cf. eq. 5, 8 and 9).
Axes are logarithmic.
depth varies with temperature difference in the model, a thermocline depth
index HT is defined as
HT =
Z
0
−D
T (z) − Tbottom
dz,
Ttop − Tbottom
(18)
where Ttop and Tbottom is the temperature at the surface and bottom, respectively. The variation of thermocline depth with temperature difference
is shown in Fig. 6. The variation of HT in the model follows the predictions
of the scale analysis in the regime where ∆T & 5 ◦ C. In the region where
∆T . 5 ◦ C the thermocline depth index saturates close to 0.5, implying
that the thermocline effectively has reached the bottom (H ∼ D).
The overturning response in Fig. 5 and the thermocline depth response
in Fig. 6 (shown for data from a column near the center of the basin) proved
to be uniformly valid in the greater part of the basin. The exception is the
region poleward of the global maximum of the streamfunction where downwelling occurs.
41
Paper I
Thermocline depth
Depth
0.5
PSfrag replacements
0.1
0.1
1
10
Temperature difference
F i g u r e 6: Thermocline depth index (cf. eq. 18) for constant (circles) and
stratification-dependent (squares) diffusivity. The flow is thermally forced. Thermocline depth index for a column in the center of the basin as a function of
equator-to-pole temperature difference. The depth index is normalized with the
basin depth D and the temperature difference with ∆Tr . Numbers are nondimensional. Dotted lines and dash-dotted lines are results from the scale analysis for constant and stratification dependent diffusivity, respectively. Axes are
logarithmic.
4.2
Mixed boundary conditions
After noting the different responses depending on the representation of the
diffusivity, it is of interest to analyze how freshwater forcing affects the circulation. The density is now a function of temperature as well as salinity,
and consequently the salinity-flux and temperature boundary conditions
jointly force the circulation. Note that, in contrast to the case when only
thermal forcing is applied, the equator-to-pole surface density difference is
not prescribed but dynamically determined by the flux condition at the
surface. The thermal forcing is taken to be constant, but the intensity
of the freshwater forcing is slightly varied between each simulation. In
what follows the thermally dominated forward circulations are first analyzed, whereafter salinity-dominated, reversed circulations are dealt with
separately. The steady state at R = 0 is identical to that obtained for the
thermally forced simulation at ∆T = ∆Tr .
Fig. 7 shows the resulting strength of the streamfunction (defined above)
as a function of the freshwater forcing. When the strength of the freshwater
forcing is increased the circulation weakens for the constant-diffusivity case.
The opposite is true when the stability-dependent diffusivity parameterization is used: A stronger freshwater forcing is now associated with a strong
42
4 Results
Overturning response diagram
Overturning
1.2
1.1
1
PSfrag replacements
0.9
0
0.1
0.2
0.3
Fresh water forcing
F i g u r e 7: Response diagram of the overturning as function of the strength
of the freshwater forcing, R, for constant (circles) and stratification-dependent
(squares) diffusivity, respectively. Heat and freshwater force the circulation. The
overturning is normalized at R = 0. Numbers are non-dimensional.
overturning. This is in broad agreement with the results from the thermally forced simulations (cf. Fig. 5): As the freshwater forcing is increased,
the salinity contrast is magnified, implying that the equator-to-pole density
difference weakens. This corresponds to a weaker equator-to-pole temperature difference in the simulations using only thermal forcing.
It should be emphasized that no steady forward circulations are found
when R > 0.33. The underlying reason has to do with feedbacks between
the circulation and the salinity fields, an issue which deserves a discussion.
In the case with only thermal forcing there is a negative feedback between
the temperature difference and the heat flux since a greater temperature
difference results in an enhanced heat flux, independent of the diffusivity representation. The existence of solely a negative feedback implies that
there is one single stable equilibrium state for each ∆T . However, the freshwater forcing introduces an additional feedback mechanism which makes
the dynamics more complex.
To begin with, it should be recognized that the freshwater forcing acts
to increase the equator-to-pole salinity contrast, regardless of the magnitude of the salinity contrast. In a steady state the advective salinity flux
is the only mechanism capable of balancing the freshwater forcing. The
feedback between the salinity difference and the advective salinity flux determines the stability of the system when it departs from a steady state.
The essentials of this feedback are contained in the linearized evolution of
a small perturbation on the basic equator-to-pole salinity contrast ∆S, as
43
Paper I
the following schematic relation describes:
d∆S 0
∝ −∆S 0 · ψ − ∆S · ψ 0 ,
dt
where overbars denote basic-state quantities and primes denote perturbations. The first r.h.s. term represents how the basic-state flow affects a
perturbation in the salinity contrast. This part of the feedback is independent of the relation between density and circulation and is hence also
independent of the diffusivity representation. It is negative definite, since
the advection counteracts the salinity perturbation. The second r.h.s. term
describes the interaction between a flow perturbation and the basic salinity
contrast. This feedback depends on the relation between density difference
and circulation. For constant diffusivity, as well as in the classical box
model due to Stommel (1961), a positive perturbation in the salinity contrast gives rise to a decrease of the advection (relative the basic state).
This will amplify the initial perturbation in the salinity contrast, hereby
making this part of the feedback positive. Thus, the two feedback components counteract each other and the net feedback can be negative as well as
positive. For the stability-dependent diffusivity, on the other hand, a positive perturbation in the salinity contrast implies an enhanced circulation.
This will dampen out the salinity perturbation (implying that the second
r.h.s. term constitutes a negative feedback). Hence, the total feedback is
always negative.
Can these theoretical considerations serve to illuminate the model results? For the case when ψ ∼ ∆ρ1/3 (corresponding to fixed diffusivity)
and when the freshwater forcing is weak, the negative component of the
feedback predominates. However, it weakens as the freshwater forcing gets
stronger and the salt contrast builds up, whereas the positive part of the
feedback becomes stronger. Freshwater forcing consequently destabilizes
the circulation. At some stage the positive part of the feedback overwhelms
the negative one and the system becomes unstable. Thus, there is no stable
forward circulation when the freshwater forcing is stronger, but a reversed
circulation is possible (a topic to be dealt with below). This behavior of the
feedback proves to be qualitatively the same as in Stommel’s model (Stommel, 1961). The present discussion suggests that the numerical model with
fixed diffusivity yields an overturning that weakens with the density contrast up to a point where a forward circulation can not be found. Instead
a steady-state reversed circulation is obtained.
For stability-dependent diffusivity (ψ ∼ ∆ρ−1/3 ) the response should be
fundamentally different, since the feedback always is negative. In the absence of a positive feedback the system should be stable, independent of the
44
4 Results
Streamfunction maximum
Streamfunction
6
PSfrag replacements
4
2
0
E
P
Latitude
F i g u r e 8: The meridional variation of the maximum of the streamfunction
in each column with different freshwater forcings using stratification dependent
diffusivity. The solid line shows the maximum of the streamfunction for no freshwater forcing (R = 0), the dashed line for R = 0.10, the dash-dotted for R = 0.22
and the dotted for R = 0.32. Numbers are given in Sv. The x-axis is in the
meridional direction. E is the equator and P the pole.
strength of the freshwater forcing, i.e. no threshold levels should exist. Furthermore, salinity perturbations should be attenuated more rapidly when
the freshwater forcing is strong. However, this is not the case in the numerical simulations. For R > 0.33 the model does not attain stable steady
states but oscillating transient states. When attempting to explain why
the model does not comply with the theoretical considerations, the effects
of a finite basin depth could be relevant. According to the scale analysis,
a bottom influence could reverse the relation between flow and density difference (cf. section 2.2). The pycnocline depth (not shown here) increases
with freshwater forcing but has not reached the bottom when the forward
circulation breaks down. At this stage Hρ < 0.3, where Hρ is defined similarly as HT with temperature replaced by density. Thus bottom effects can
be ruled out. A more probable explanation is that the scale analysis only
applies in the region where upwelling occurs, i.e. equatorwards of the global
maximum of the streamfunction. Fig. 8 shows the meridional variation of
the maximum of the streamfunction. Equatorwards of the global maximum
the streamfunction increases with the freshwater forcing while it decreases
poleward of the global maximum. Thus, the discussion of feedbacks above
does not apply in the poleward region. Here the feedback between salinity
difference and advective salinity flux may well become positive. In fact in
the simulation where the forward circulation broke down (at R = 0.33), a
45
Paper I
salinity perturbation developed at high latitudes. As time progressed this
perturbation grew in magnitude and extent. As a result, the cell of forward
circulation receded equatorwards and vanished temporarily to be replaced
by a reversed circulation. Eventually a quasi-periodic state was attained
(discussed below).
Finally it is worth mentioning that the dependence of maximum heat
flux on the freshwater forcing is similar to that of the overturning (cf. Fig. 7).
Thus for constant diffusivity, the heat flux decreases with freshwater forcing, a dependence which is well established. A somewhat peculiar effect
is that for the fixed-energy parameterization, the heat flux increases with
freshwater forcing. Hence it is possible to maintain a strong heat flux for
a weak density contrast.
Time-dependence
It was noted above that when the freshwater forcing exceeded R = 0.33,
no steady-state solutions with forward circulation were obtained when the
model had stability-dependent vertical mixing. For stronger freshwater
forcing, the flow exhibited pronounced time-dependence. Although this
issue lies outside the main focus of the present study, the dynamics of
the time-dependent states warrant a brief comment. Consider to begin
with Fig. 9(a), which shows the time evolution of the streamfunction at
the center of the basin (for R = 0.33). As illustrated, the flow undergoes
a quasi-periodic oscillation, alternating between a strong forward circulation and a weak reversed circulation. By inspecting the distribution of
ψ in two the extreme phases of the oscillation (see Fig. 9(b) and 9(c)),
the following picture emerges. In the phase of weak flow at the center of
the basin, there are two distinct circulation cells: Forward flow occurs in
the southern domain, whereas the northern domain is characterized by a
weak reversed circulation. Formation of rather warm and saline deep water
occurs between the two cells. In phases of strong flow, the forward circulation occupies the bulk of the basin. Here, broad down-welling occurs in
the northern half of the basin. Thus, the oscillation brings the system from
an essentially thermally dominated forward state to a hybrid state with
partly reversed flow, and back again. Throughout the cycle, the halineand thermal-density contributions are comparable in the northern part of
the basin, which causes the density contrast to be weak in this region.
The oscillation described here kinematically resembles the ”thermohaline flushings” that have been reported from several studies based on threedimensional ocean models (e.g. Weaver et al., 1993). As in a typical cycle of
46
4 Results
−1
6
4
−0.5
5
Depth
Streamfunction
rag replacements
Streamfunction
T
Streamfunction
2
PSfrag replacements
2
0
0
B
0
500
1000
E
P
Latitude
Time
(a) Streamfunction at the center of
the basin as a function of time with
freshwater forcing at R = 0.33 using stratification dependent diffusivity.
The bullets mark the weak and strong
phases shown in Fig. 9(b) and 9(c), respectively. Numbers are given in Sv
and years respectively.
(b) Streamfunction at the weak
phase at t = 301 years with freshwater forcing at R = 0.33 using stratification dependent diffusivity. Numbers in Sv. Solid contour lines corresponds to positive values and dotted to negative. The x-axis is in the
meridional direction and the y-axis
in the vertical. E is the equator, P
the pole, T the top and B the bottom.
Streamfunction
Depth
T
10
0
5
2
PSfrag replacements
B
E
P
Latitude
(c) As Fig. 9(b) but at the strong
phase at t = 503 years.
F i g u r e 9: Transient streamfunction.
47
Paper I
Overturning response diagram
Overturning
1
0
PSfrag replacements
−1
0
1
2
Fresh water forcing
F i g u r e 1 0: Response of the overturning as function of the strength of the
freshwater forcing, R, for constant (circles) and stratification-dependent (squares)
diffusivity, respectively. Heat and freshwater force the circulation. Dotted and
dash-dotted lines lines are predictions from the conceptual model of Nilsson and
Walin (2001) for constant and stratification dependent diffusivity, respectively.
The overturning is normalized at R = 0. Numbers are non-dimensional.
thermohaline flushing, the present model produces relatively long dormant
periods, followed by short bursts of intense forward circulation. It should
be stressed, however, that the stability-dependent vertical mixing is crucial
for the oscillations in our two-dimensional model; only steady equilibria are
found when a constant vertical diffusivity is employed. Three-dimensional
models, on the other hand, produce flushing cycles when the vertical diffusivity is taken to be fixed, as exemplified by the study of Weaver et al.
(1993).
Reversed circulation
When the salinity field dominates the density distribution, the flow and the
equator-to-pole density gradient become reversed. In this regime, narrow
sinking occurs in low latitudes, which is compensated by broad upwelling
over the rest of the basin. As the stratification is controlled by salinity, a
stronger freshwater forcing now implies a more pronounced density difference. Essentially, this is the opposite of the state of affairs in the thermally
dominated regime with forward circulation.
Fig. 10 provides an overview of all steady states that have been obtained in the numerical investigation. The figure also indicates the predictions from the conceptual model of Nilsson and Walin (2001) (illustrated
48
5 Discussion
by the dotted lines). Consider first the reversed flow obtained when the
model has constant diffusivity. As for the forward circulation, a stronger
density difference implies a stronger circulation. Accordingly, the increase
in circulation with increasing freshwater forcing, illustrated in Fig. 10, is
expected. It is worth noting that the predictions from Nilsson and Walin
(2001) describe reasonably accurately the forward as well as the reversed
circulation in this case. Note further that no effort has been made to obtain
reversed flow for weak freshwater forcing.
It proved more challenging to obtain stationary reversed flows when
the stability-dependent mixing was employed. However, after extended numerical integrations a few equilibria were obtained. Fig. 10 shows that the
reversed circulation slows down when the freshwater forcing increases. This
behavior is analogous to the dynamics in the forward regime: A stronger
freshwater forcing yields an enhanced (salinity-dominated) density contrast.
This implies reduced vertical mixing which causes the thermocline depth to
decrease to such an extent that the overturning slows down, despite an increased equator-to-pole density difference. As evident from Fig. 10, in this
case the numerically simulated reversed circulation only qualitatively follows the conceptual model of Nilsson and Walin (2001). It is nevertheless of
interest to note that the conceptual model predicts a threshold freshwater
forcing, below which steady reversed circulation should be possible. The
reason is that there now is a positive feedback between perturbations in
salinity and circulation: A weaker salinity contrast yields a stronger flow,
which in turn further reduces the salinity contrast. Thus it is essentially
the same mechanism that destabilized the forward circulation when the
vertical diffusivity is fixed.
5
Discussion
In our two-dimensional numerical model, the nature of the vertical mixing proved to be crucial for the response of the circulation to changes in
the surface fluxes of heat and freshwater. When the vertical mixing was
represented by a fixed vertical diffusivity, the forward circulation increased
with increasing equator-to-pole density difference. This is the generally
anticipated behavior, which has been reproduced in many numerical investigations (e.g. Park and Bryan, 2000). In contrast, when the vertical
diffusivity decreased with stratification (at a rate that implied a fixed mixing energy) the opposite result was obtained: A weaker density difference
yielded a stronger forward circulation.
This qualitative difference in the response of the circulation was encoun49
Paper I
tered in the simulations with only thermal forcing as well as in those with
mixed boundary conditions. For the stratification dependent mixing, the
forward circulation intensified with increasing freshwater forcing. To our
knowledge, this remarkable thermohaline response has not been reported
from previous numerical investigations. A closer inspection of these simulations revealed that while the flow intensified in the bulk of the basin, it
slowed down at high latitudes. The local freshwater hampering of the highlatitude circulation eventually destabilized the steady forward equilibrium;
despite stronger freshwater forcing serving to augment the circulation in
the greater part of the basin. However, the branch of thermally-dominated
steady states was not succeeded by a salinity-dominated branch with reversed circulation (as was the case when a fixed diffusivity was employed).
Rather, quasi-periodic flows resulted, which oscillated between phases of
forward circulation of varying spatial extent and strength. It is interesting to note that the conceptual model due to Nilsson and Walin (2001)
describes the simulated response of the forward circulation to freshwater
forcing rather well for both mixing representations; see Fig. 10. However,
the predictions of this model concerning the stability of the forward circulation proved to be less applicable to our numerical simulations. According to
the conceptual two-layer model, the forward circulation should remain stable until the freshwater forcing is so strong that the pycnocline approaches
the sea floor when stability-dependent mixing is employed. The forward
circulation in the numerical model broke down well before that stage was
reached. The most likely explanation is that the two-layer model, although
relevant for steady state flows, does not resolve the spatial structure of the
perturbations destabilizing the numerical model.
Are the results from this idealized study of relevance for the thermohaline circulation in the real ocean? To approach this question, it must be
recognized that our knowledge of the vertical mixing in the ocean interior
is far from complete (e.g. Toole and McDougall, 2001). Currently it is not
known with any degree of precision how the turbulent vertical diffusivity
would change in response to an altered vertical stratification in the World
Ocean. Keeping this basic difficulty in mind, it is thus most relevant to
ask whether the thermohaline circulation in more realistic models would
be as sensitive to the nature of vertical mixing as it proved to be in our
one-hemisphere zonally averaged model. To begin with, it can be stated
that our model produces relations between the prescribed equator-to-pole
temperature difference and the overturning strength that are similar to
those obtained by Nilsson et al. (2003), who studied one-hemisphere flows
using a three-dimensional model. Accordingly, for the purely thermally50
5 Discussion
forced flows, the present zonally averaged model seems to give a reasonable
description of the meridional overturning dynamics.
5.1
Relevance for two-hemisphere flows
The use of a one-hemisphere basin is an obvious limitation and motivates
a comment of the relevance of our results for thermohaline flows in a twohemisphere basin. Focusing on thermally forced flows, it can be noted that
the studies by Klinger and Marotzke (1999) and Marotzke and Klinger
(2000) demonstrate that even a weak pole-to-pole temperature (i.e. density) difference yields a flow that is strongly asymmetric with respect to the
equator. Obviously, the present theoretical and numerical considerations
provide no information on the dynamics controlling the asymmetry of these
two-hemisphere flows. However, Klinger and Marotzke (1999) noted that
the thermocline depth and the net overturning (i.e. the combined sinking
in the two hemispheres) of the asymmetric flows scaled essentially as in the
one-hemisphere case: In their simulations (where a fixed diffusivity was employed) the net overturning followed roughly ∆T 1/3 , where ∆T represented
the largest equator-to-pole temperature difference (i.e. characterizing the
hemisphere where the bulk of the sinking occurred). Based on the results
of Klinger and Marotzke, it seems plausible that the present results apply
qualitatively also for the net overturning of an asymmetric two-hemisphere
flow, which essentially should be controlled by the basin-averaged vertical
diffusivity and the maximum density contrast.
In the simulations with mixed boundary conditions, the one-hemisphere
geometry introduces an additional problem: it excludes the possibility of
equatorially asymmetric perturbations, which have a destabilizing influence of the symmetric thermally-dominated circulation in a two-hemisphere
basin (Weijer and Dijkstra, 2001; Nilsson et al., 2004). It is well established
that in a two-hemisphere basin the thermohaline circulation tends to attain
an equatorially asymmetric state, rather than a state of reversed circulation, as the freshwater forcing is increased (Marotzke et al., 1988; Thual
and McWilliams, 1992; Klinger and Marotzke, 1999). Welander (1986) suggested that the asymmetric thermohaline circulation conceptually can be
viewed as a hybrid state, with thermal dominance in one hemisphere and
haline dominance in the other. This idealized picture may suggest that
our results concerning the effect of vertical mixing on the circulation in
the forward and reversed regimes, respectively, can be translated to asymmetric circulations in a two-hemisphere system. However, this is probably
misleading as there tends to be an element of pole-to-pole circulation in the
51
Paper I
asymmetric regime, rather than two independent cells with different directions of flow (e.g. Klinger and Marotzke, 1999). Accordingly, the effect of a
coupling between mixing and stratification on asymmetric two-hemisphere
thermohaline circulation warrants further study.
5.2
Concluding remarks
It must further be emphasized that in our one-hemisphere model, the production and sinking of dense water must be balanced by the upwelling
sustained by vertical mixing in the ocean interior. In the World Ocean,
however, the wind directly forces upwelling in the Southern Ocean (Toggweiler and Samuels, 1995; Rahmstorf and England, 1997), where the surface
Ekman drift carries cold water equatorwards. In fact, results from the conceptual model of Saenko and Weaver (2003) suggest that the overturning
strength in the real ocean is probably less sensitive to the equator-to-pole
density difference and the nature of vertical mixing than it is in our idealized one-hemisphere model; if the wind-forced Southern Ocean upwelling
is fixed, it provides a baseline for the strength of the global overturning.
Furthermore, it should be underlined that our results concern the steadystate response of the thermohaline circulation to variations in the freshwater forcing. In the context of climate change – past as well as future –
it may rather be the response of the thermohaline circulation to transient
and abrupt changes of the surface forcing that matters. This transient type
of response is of immediate relevance for how the thermohaline circulation
will respond to future global warming (see e.g. Rahmstorf, 2000; Marotzke,
2000). In this context it is interesting to mention a recent coupled oceanatmosphere study concerning the sensitivity of the Atlantic thermohaline
circulation reported by Otterå et al. (2003). Starting from present-day
climatic conditions, they introduced a strong fresh-water perturbation in
the northern North Atlantic (0.2 Sv kept constant). Initially the Atlantic
thermohaline circulation declined; however, after some fifty years the circulation started to regain strength and eventually stabilized. In the ocean
model, Otterå et al. employed a stability-dependent vertical mixing. Based
on analyses of the model result, they concluded that enhanced vertical
mixing played an important role for the stabilization of the Atlantic circulation. Thus, it seems highly motivated to further explore to what extent
the nature of vertical mixing may affect the dynamics of the thermohaline
circulation.
52
Bibliography
Acknowledgments
This work was supported by the Swedish National Space Board and the
Swedish Research Council. We would like to thank professor Peter Lundberg for discussions and valuable comments. We would also like to thank
two anonymous reviewers for their constructive suggestions.
Bibliography
Huang, R. X., 1999. Mixing and energetics of the oceanic thermohaline circulation. Journal of Physical Oceanography 29 (4), 727–746,
doi:10.1175/1520-0485(1999)029<0727:MAEOTO>2.0.CO;2.
Kato, H., Phillips, O. M., 1969. On the penetration of a turbulent layer
into a stratified fluid. Journal of fluid mechanics 37, 643–655.
Klinger, B. A., Marotzke, J., 1999. Behavior of double-hemisphere thermohaline flows in a single basin. Journal of Physical Oceanography 29 (3),
382–399, doi:10.1175/1520-0485(1999)029<0382:BODHTF>2.0.CO;2.
Levitus, S., 1982. Climatological atlas of the world ocean. NOAA Professional paper 13, 173 pp.
Lyle, M., 1997. Could early cenozoic thermohaline circulation have warmed
the poles? Paleoceanography 12 (2), 161–167, doi:10.1029/96PA03330.
Marotzke, J., 2000. Abrupt climate change and thermohaline circulation:
Mechanisms and predictability. Proceedings of the National Academy of
Sciences (U.S.A.) 97, 1347–1350, doi:10.1073/pnas.97.4.1347.
Marotzke, J., Klinger, B. A., 2000. The dynamics of equatorially asymmetric thermohaline circulations. Journal of Physical Oceanography 30 (5),
955–970, doi:10.1175/1520-0485(2000)030<0955:TDOEAT>2.0.CO;2.
Marotzke, J., Welander, P., Willebrand, J., 1988. Instability and multiple
steady states in a meridional-plane model of the thermohaline circulation.
Tellus, Series A 40 (2), 162–172.
Munk, W. H., 1966. Abyssal recipes. Deep-Sea Research 13, 707–730.
Munk, W. H., Wunsch, C., 1998. Abyssal recipes II: energetics of tidal
and wind mixing. Deep-Sea Research, Part I 45 (12), 1977–2010,
doi:10.1016/S0967-0637(98)00070-3.
53
Paper I
Nilsson, J., Broström, G., Walin, G., 2003. The thermohaline circulation
and vertical mixing: Does weaker density stratification give stronger
overturning? Journal of Physical Oceanography 33 (12), 2781–2795,
doi:10.1175/1520-0485(2003)033<2781:TTCAVM>2.0.CO;2.
Nilsson, J., Broström, G., Walin, G., 2004. On the spontaneous transition
to asymmetric thermohaline circulation. Tellus, Series A 56 (1), 68–78,
doi:10.1111/j.1600-0870.2004.00044.x.
Nilsson, J., Walin, G., 2001. Freshwater forcing as a booster of thermohaline circulation. Tellus, Series A 53 (5), 629–641, doi:10.1034/j.16000870.2001.00263.x.
Otterå, O. H., Drange, H., Bentsen, M., Kvamstø, N. G., D., J., 2003.
The sensitivity of the present-day atlantic meridional overturning circulation to freshwater forcing. Geophysical Research Letters 30 (17), 1898,
doi:10.1029/2003GL017578.
Park, Y.-G., Bryan, K., 2000. Comparison of thermally driven circulations from a depth-coordinate model and an isopycnal-layer
model. Part I: Scaling-law sensitivity to vertical diffusivity. Journal of Physical Oceanography 30 (3), 590–605, doi:10.1175/15200485(2000)030<0590:COTDCF>2.0.CO;2.
Rahmstorf, S., 2000. The thermohaline ocean circulation: a system with dangerous thresholds? Climatic Change 46 (3), 247–256,
doi:10.1023/A:1005648404783.
Rahmstorf, S., England, M. H., 1997. Influence of southern hemisphere winds on North Atlantic deep water flow. Journal of
Physical Oceanography 27 (9), 2040–2054, doi:10.1175/15200485(1997)027<2040:IOSHWO>2.0.CO;2.
Saenko, O. A., Weaver, A. J., 2003. Southern ocean upwelling and eddies:
sensitivity of the global overturning to the surface density range. Tellus
Series A 55 (1), 106–111, doi:10.1034/j.1600-0870.2003.201518.x.
Stommel, H., 1961. Thermohaline convection with two stable regimes of
flow. Tellus 13 (2), 224–230.
Thual, O., McWilliams, J. C., 1992. The catastrophe structure of thermohaline convection in a two-dimensional fluid model and comparison with
low-order box models. Geophysical and Astrophysical Fluid Dynamics
64 (1–4), 67–95.
54
Bibliography
Toggweiler, J. R., Samuels, B., 1995. Effect of Drake Passage on the global
thermohaline circulation. Deep-Sea Research, Part I 42 (4), 477–500,
doi:10.1016/0967-0637(95)00012-U.
Toole, J. M., McDougall, T. J., 2001. Mixing and stirring in the ocean
interior. In: Siedler, G., Church, J., Gould, J. (Eds.), Ocean Circulation
and Climate. Vol. 77. Academic Press, Inc., pp. 337–356.
Weaver, A. J., Marotzke, J., Cummins, P. F., Sarachik, E. S.,
1993. Stability and variability of the thermohaline circulation. Journal of Physical Oceanography 23 (1), 39–60, doi:10.1175/15200485(1993)023<0039:SAVOTT>2.0.CO;2.
Weijer, W., Dijkstra, H. A., 2001. A bifurcation study of the threedimensional thermohaline ocean circulation: The double hemispheric
case. Journal of Marine Research 59 (4), 599–631.
Welander, P., 1986. Thermohaline effects in the ocean circulation and related simple models. In: Willebrand, J., Anderson, D. L. T. (Eds.),
Large-Scale Transport Processes in Oceans and Atmosphere. D. Reidel
publishing company, pp. 163–200.
Wright, D. G., Stocker, T. F., 1991. A zonally averaged ocean model for the
thermohaline circulation. Part I: Model development and flow dynamics.
Journal of Physical Oceanography 21 (12), 1713–1724, doi:10.1175/15200485(1991)021<1713:AZAOMF>2.0.CO;2.
Wright, D. G., Stocker, T. F., Mercer, D., 1998. Closures used in zonally
averaged ocean models. Journal of Physical Oceanography 28 (5), 791–
804, doi:10.1175/1520-0485(1998)028<0791:CUIZAO>2.0.CO;2.
Yin, F. L., Sarachik, E., 1994. An efficient convective adjustment scheme for ocean general circulation models. Journal of
Physical Oceanography 24 (6), 1425–1430, doi:10.1175/15200485(1994)024<1425:AECASF>2.0.CO;2.
55
Pa p e r I I
Symmetric and
asymmetric modes of the
thermohaline circulation
R e z wa n M o h a m m a d a n d J o h a n N i l s s o n
Under review in Tellus, Series A
Abstract
On the basis of a zonally averaged two-hemisphere ocean model, the present
study investigates how the asymmetric thermohaline circulation depends on
the equator-to-pole as well as the pole-to-pole density difference. Numerical
experiments are conducted with prescribed surface density distributions as
well as with mixed boundary conditions. Further, two different representations of the small-scale vertical mixing are considered, viz. constant and
stability-dependent vertical diffusivity. The numerical results reveal that
the horizontal structure of the flow is determined by the degree of equatorial asymmetry of the surface-density distribution, whereas the strength of
the flow is controlled primarily by the equator-to-pole density difference.
Provided that the shape of the surface density is invariant, the dependence
of the strength of the asymmetric flow on the equator-to-pole density difference essentially follows the classical thermocline scaling pertaining to
symmetric flows. In this case, the two diffusivity representations yield the
opposite overturning responses to changes of the surface boundary conditions. However, if the shape of the surface density is changed, the symmetric scale analysis does not suffice to describe the dynamical response, which
chiefly entails a spatial reorganization of the dynamical fields; in this respect
there is no qualitative difference between the two parameterizations of the
vertical mixing. For an asymmetric flow, subjected to mixed boundary conditions, an increase of the freshwater forcing primarily leads to an enhanced
pole-to-pole density difference; an increase of the symmetric thermal forcing
primarily augments the equator-to-pole density difference. Thus for a fixed
freshwater forcing, an increase of the equator-to-pole temperature difference yields a weaker asymmetric circulation when the stability-dependent
diffusivity is employed, whereas the reverse holds true for the constant diffusivity representation. Further, the numerical experiments show that the
hysteresis characteristics of the asymmetric thermohaline circulation may
be sensitive the nature of the small-scale vertical mixing.
59
Paper II
1
Introduction
The small-scale vertical mixing, energetically sustained by winds and tides,
is one of the key factors controlling the meridional overturning strength
in the World Ocean (Wunsch and Ferrari, 2004). However, to quantify
the importance of the vertical mixing for the driving of the meridional
overturning has proved to be a challenging issue, which is still far from fully
resolved: One school of thought (e.g. Munk and Wunsch, 1998) argues that
the vertical mixing is crucial for the overturning as well as for its attendant
heat transport; a contrary view (e.g. Toggweiler and Samuels, 1995) is
that the overturning primarily is forced by wind-induced upwelling in the
Southern Ocean.
The present study focuses on how the nature of the vertical mixing may
impact on the overturning dynamics, in particular the equilibrium response
of the overturning to changes in the surface boundary conditions. In order
to study this issue in its purest and most simple form, all direct effects of
wind-forced circulation are deliberately excluded from the present investigation. Thus, the primary aim here is to examine a process of geophysical
relevance using a highly idealized representation of the ocean.
It is well established that, in the absence of wind forcing, the vertical
diffusivity is a key factor controlling the meridional overturning strength in
a single-hemisphere basin. Straightforward scaling arguments suggest that
the overturning strength increases with the vertical diffusivity as well as
with the equator-to-pole density difference, a relationship which has proved
to be consonant with the outcome of many numerical studies (cf. Park and
Bryan, 2000). Huang (1999) pointed out that if the energy supply to vertical mixing is taken to be fixed, the vertical diffusivity becomes inversely
proportional to the vertical density difference. Under this assumption, the
stronger density stratification associated with an enhanced equator-to-pole
density difference serves to suppress the vertical diffusivity. A remarkable
consequence of this coupling between the diffusivity and the stratification
is that the overturning strength will decrease, rather than increase, with
increasing equator-to-pole density difference. These somewhat counterintuitive results have recently been investigated using ocean circulation models
of varying complexity (Huang, 1999; Nilsson et al., 2003; Mohammad and
Nilsson, 2004; Otterå et al., 2003).
While the dynamical implications of stability-dependent diffusivity have
been examined for a single-hemispheric basin, it is by no means straightforward to extrapolate these results to the overturning in the real ocean. A
main difficulty is that the overturning in the World Ocean is asymmetric
60
1 Introduction
with respect to the equator, a feature that can not be modeled using a
single-hemisphere basin. In addition, wind-forced upwelling in the Southern Ocean is likely to exert control on the overturning strength (Toggweiler
and Samuels, 1995; Rahmstorf and England, 1997; Klinger et al., 2003).
Before proceeding with the numerical modeling of a two-hemisphere
basin which forms the core of the present study, it must again be underlined
that the symmetric modes of the thermohaline circulation can be described
using classical thermocline scaling (Welander, 1986). In this analysis the
key quantities are the small-scale vertical mixing κ, the equator-to-pole
surface density difference ∆ρ, and the upwelling area A. The analysis
yields that the thermocline depth should scale as
H ∼ A1/3 · κ1/3 · ∆ρ−1/3 ,
(1)
and the strength of the circulation as
ψ ∼ A2/3 · κ2/3 · ∆ρ1/3 .
(2)
It should be noted that there currently exists no universal physical description of the vertical mixing in the ocean which predicts how κ depends on
∆ρ (cf. Toole and McDougall, 2001). When specifying κ it is of interest
to compare the dynamical effects of two different assumptions of the physical nature of the small-scale vertical mixing: (i) constant diffusivity, as
frequently used in ocean-circulation models, and (ii) a parameterization
based on the more conservative hypothesis that the rate of energy available
for the mixing is constant, viz. a stability-dependent diffusivity.
In the constant-diffusivity case the scaling implies that the relation between the strength of the circulation and the equator-to-pole density difference is ψ ∼ ∆ρ1/3 . If the mixing energy is taken to be constant, on the
other hand, the diffusivity will depend on the vertical density difference
according to κ ∼ ∆ρ−1 (e.g. Huang, 1999; Nilsson and Walin, 2001). This
yields the following scaling:
H ∼ A1/3 · ∆ρ−2/3 ,
(3)
ψ ∼ A2/3 · ∆ρ−1/3 .
(4)
The response of the circulation thus differs fundamentally for the two parameterizations of the mixing: When the equator-to-pole temperature difference is taken to increase, the circulation is strengthened in the constantdiffusivity case, whereas it weakens for stability-dependent diffusivity.
The scope of the present study is thus to extend the previous analysis due to Mohammad and Nilsson (2004) in order to determine how a
61
Paper II
stability-dependent vertical diffusivity affects the dynamics of equatorially
asymmetric regimes of overturning. This issue will be investigated using the
simplest possible geometry: a two-hemisphere basin. A zonally-averaged
model similar to the ones previously employed in various climate studies
(Wright and Stocker, 1991; Stocker et al., 1992; Wang and Mysak, 2000)
will be employed in the numerical experiments. The presentation is organized as follows: The numerical model is described in section 2. The
outcome of two sets of numerical experiments, the first employing thermal
forcing only, and the other with mixed boundary conditions, is reported in
section 3 and 4, respectively. In section 5, the main results are summarized
and discussed.
2
The model
The zonally-averaged model employed for the present investigation is basically the one previously applied by Mohammad and Nilsson (2004). The
main difference is that a two-hemisphere basin now will be used. Essentially, the derivation of the zonally averaged model equations follows
Marotzke et al. (1988). The model describes a hydrostatic Boussinesq
fluid, confined within a basin of constant depth D, zonal width B, and
meridional length 2L. The closure of the horizontal momentum equation
is accomplished by assuming a proportionality between the east-west and
north-south pressure gradients, which yields a linear relation between the
meridional flow and pressure gradient (see e.g. Wright and Stocker, 1991;
Wright et al., 1998).
The following equations govern the system:
γv = −
1 ∂p
,
ρ0 ∂y
∂p
= −ρg,
∂z
ρ(T, S) = ρ0 (1 − αT + βS) ,
∂v ∂w
+
= 0,
∂y
∂z
∂ T
∂ T
∂ T
+v
+w
=
∂t S
∂y S
∂z S
∂ T
∂
κ
.
∂z
∂z S
62
(5)
(6)
(7)
(8)
(9)
2 The model
Here v and w are the zonally-averaged meridional and vertical velocities,
respectively, γ is a closure parameter relating flow speed and pressure gradient, ρ0 is the reference density, p is the zonally averaged pressure, y is
the meridional coordinate, z is the vertical coordinate, g is the gravity, T
and S is the zonally averaged temperature and salinity, respectively, α and
β are expansion coefficients for heat and salt, respectively, and κ is the
vertical diffusivity.
No transports take place through the solid northern, southern and bottom boundaries. At the surface the salinity is dynamically controlled by a
prescribed salinity flux F , given by
π
∂S
F (y) = −F0 · cos y ·
= −κ ,
L
∂z
where F0 is the magnitude of the maximum salinity flux. The physical
interpretation is that maximal net evaporation and precipitation takes place
at the equator and the poles, respectively.
The sea-surface temperature is restored towards the following temperature distribution

∆T

− µ) ·
 2 · 2µ + (1 π
Ttop (y) =
1 + cos y · L
for y ≤ 0,

 ∆T π
for y > 0,
·
1
+
cos
y
·
2
L
where ∆T is the equator-to-pole temperature difference1 . The degree of
sea-surface-temperature asymmetry is represented by a parameter µ, defined as the ratio between the pole-to-pole and the equator-to-pole temperature differences. Note that the sea-surface temperature is restored with a
1-day time scale, implying that the sea-surface temperature is essentially
prescribed.
The diffusivity κ is parameterized in two ways: as constant (say κ0 )
and in such a way that the rate of energy available for mixing (say E) is
constant, implying a stability-dependent diffusivity. Here E, which equals
the rate of increase in potential energy per unit area, is given by (see e.g.
Munk and Wunsch, 1998)
Z
E(y) = ρ0 κN 2 dz,
where N is the buoyancy frequency. In a stably stratified fluid, a non-zero
κ thus leads to the creation of potential energy. Observations as well as
1 The
term equator-to-pole difference is here used to denote the difference between
equator and the pole harboring the coldest (or most dense) surface water.
63
Paper II
Constant
Stability dependent
T
T
PSfrag replacements
Depth
5
Latitude
3
3
1
1
B
SP
E
B
SP
NP
Latitude
E
NP
Latitude
F i g u r e 1: Reference-state streamfunction for constant (left panel) and
stability-dependent diffusivity (right panel), respectively. Solid/dashed lines indicate positive/negative values. Note that although the diffusivity differs between
the two models, they are tuned to have the same rate of potential energy generation in this reference state where µ = 0 and ∆T = 25 ◦ C. The overturning
strength is given in Sv.
theoretical considerations suggest that whereas κ is relatively uniform in
the thermocline, it tends to increase towards the bottom, particularly in
regions with rough bathymetry (e.g. Toole and McDougall, 2001; Simmons
et al., 2004). For the sake of implicitly, however, the diffusivity κ is here
taken to be vertically uniform over the entire depth, which implies that
E(y) = gκ∆ρ(y),
where ∆ρ(y) is the vertical density difference between the bottom and the
surface. When the diffusivity is stability-dependent E(y) is taken to be a
constant specified by E0 . This has the consequence that diffusivity varies
horizontally according to
κ(y) =
E0
.
g∆ρ(y)
Here we choose E0 so that the global production of potential energy, i.e.
RL
E(y) dy, is the same for both diffusivity representations in a reference
−L
state defined below. It should be noted that for the stability-dependent representation of the mixing, the vertical diffusivity increases with a decreasing
stability of the water column. In order to preclude excessive κ-values in
areas of weak density stratification, an upper limit is set at 10 · κ0 .
We introduce a reference state for which the freshwater forcing is taken
to be zero (i.e. F0 = 0) and the flow- and temperature-fields are symmetric
(i.e. µ = 0), see Fig. 1. The reference state is characterized by the following
parameters: ∆Tr = 25 ◦ C, κ0 = 10−4 m2 /s, D = 3000 m, B = 6000 km,
64
3 Prescribed surface density
L = 6000 km, α = 2 · 10−4 ◦ C−1 , β = 8 · 10−4 , γ = 1.8 · 10−3 s−1 . The thermally induced equator-to-pole density difference, ∆ρr , is 5 kg/m3 . Note
that γ should be regarded as a tuning parameter, here adjusted so that the
model yields ocean-like results for the parameter values introduced above.
Note furthermore that the reference state will be employed to present the
numerical results in non-dimensional form.
In the simulations conducted with mixed boundary conditions, the
strength of the freshwater forcing is governed by a non-dimensional parameter R. This quantity is defined as the ratio between the haline buoyancy
flux due to the freshwater forcing, and the thermal buoyancy flux associated with the meridional heat transport (say Qr ) in the reference state with
zero freshwater forcing. The haline buoyancy flux is βF0 BL/π, implying
that
R=
βF0 BLcp ρ0
,
αQr π
(10)
where cp is the heat capacity of sea water. Note that Qr = 0.16 PW and
Qr = 0.11 PW in the reference simulations with constant and stabilitydependent diffusivity, respectively.
3
Prescribed surface density
The asymmetric density field associated with a flow subjected to mixed
boundary conditions is to some extent equivalent to the situation arising
when a solely thermal asymmetric forcing is applied. Since the dynamics of
a system forced by mixed boundary conditions are more complex, we will
first study a thermally forced system without haline effects (β = 0), i.e. the
density ρ is taken to only be dependent on the temperature T , ρ = ρ(T ).
When studying the response of the asymmetric modes it was found that
the numerical results agreed qualitatively with the outcome of the scale
analysis for the symmetric circulation mode if the degree of asymmetry
was retained while the magnitude of the thermal forcing is varied (viz. a
fixed µ and varying ∆T ). When µ was varied (while ∆T was held constant)
the results were less straightforward to interpret. It is thus instructive to
first consider the asymmetric modes for a fixed µ and hereafter the case
when µ is allowed to vary. Note that the majority of the results here are
nondimensionalized with respect to the reference state, implying that the
reference equator-to-pole temperature difference corresponds to ∆T = 1.
65
Paper II
Temperature and streamfunction
T
−0.4
20
0
15
10
5
Depth
7
5
3
PSfrag replacements
1
B
SP
E
NP
Latitude
F i g u r e 2: Steady-state temperature (solid lines) and streamfunction (dashed
lines for positive values and dotted for negative) in the basin for µ = 0.5, ∆T = 1
and constant diffusivity. Values given in ◦ C and Sv.
3.1
Fixed degree of asymmetry
In the numerical experiments reported in this section, the ratio between
the pole-to-pole and the equator-to-pole temperature differences was held
constant (µ = 0.5), i.e. the shape of the forcing was retained. However,
the equator-to-pole temperature difference ∆T was varied, and the model
was integrated to a steady-state solution for each value of ∆T . Before
studying the response of the overturning, it is instructive to examine the
steady-state circulation for a given ∆T , cf. Fig. 2 where the circulation is
highly asymmetric. A dominant circulation cell, attaining its maximum
in the northern hemisphere, is seen to penetrate into the southern hemisphere to which a subordinate (i.e. weaker and more shallow) circulation
cell is confined. Note that this latter cell is “squeezed” surfacewards in the
extratropics.
Following Mohammad and Nilsson (2004), we introduce a thermoclinedepth index that measures the vertical extent of the stratification. This
quantity, to be compared with H in the scale analysis, is graphed in Fig. 3
versus the equator-to-pole temperature difference. For both representations of diffusivity, it is seen that the thermocline becomes more shallow
with an increasing equator-to-pole temperature difference. When stabilitydependent diffusivity is applied, however, the thermocline depth decreases
more rapidly than in the constant-diffusivity case. It should also be noted
66
3 Prescribed surface density
Thermocline depth
Depth
0.1
PSfrag replacements
1
10
Temperature difference
F i g u r e 3: Thermocline depth index near the center of the southern hemisphere
as a function of equator-to-pole temperature difference. The depth index is normalized with the basin depth D, the temperature difference with ∆Tr . Numbers
are non-dimensional. Circles and squares represent results from the numerical
model using constant and stability-dependent diffusivity, respectively, and dotted lines represent the results from the scale analysis. Axes are logarithmic.
the response of the thermocline-depth index is consonant with the predictions of the scale analysis, i.e. H ∼ ∆T −1/3 and H ∼ ∆T −2/3 for constant
and stability-dependent diffusivity, respectively.
The good correspondence between the two sets of results shows that the
scale analysis for symmetric flows also captures the asymmetric mode when
µ is kept fixed at 0.5. It is expected that the numerical-model results will
follow the scale relations also for other values of µ. It should be underlined
that the results shown in Fig. 3 are representative of the response in the
greater part of the basin, the most poleward regions being an exception.
The overall numerical results also corroborate that the horizontal structure of the dynamical fields is independent of ∆T . It is only the vertical
structure that is altered when ∆T is changed.
This can be further illuminated by analyzing the changes of the vertical temperature profiles as ∆T is increased (shown in Fig. 4 for constant
diffusivity). First we plot the temperature profiles in a column near the
center of the southern hemisphere in original dimensional form, shown in
the left panel with one profile for each simulation corresponding to a specific ∆T -value. As this quantity is increased, the temperature in the whole
column rises, the increase being largest in the thermocline. We hereafter
normalize the profiles with ∆T , cf. the middle panel (where the order of
the profiles has been reversed by the rescaling, the lowest-temperature pro67
Paper II
Vertical temperature profiles
Depth
T
PSfrag replacements
B
0
5
10
0
0.5
1
0
0.5
1
Temperature
F i g u r e 4: Vertical temperature profiles as functions of depth for constant diffusivity. The figures shows how the profiles merge after the analysis described
in the text. Units in the left panel are in ◦ C and non-dimensional in the other
panels.
files now corresponding to the largest value of ∆T ). Here it is evident
that the thermocline becomes more shallow as ∆T is increased. Finally
we stretch the vertical coordinate using the theoretical thermocline-depth
scale (H ∼ ∆T −1/3 ) as shown in the right panel. The profiles merge and
we can once again conclude that the vertical structure is determined solely
by ∆T , as assumed in the scale analysis.
A similar agreement between theory and numerical simulations is obtained for the response of the overturning-circulation strength to changes
in ∆T , cf. Fig. 5. Thus the numerical results approximately follow the scale
relations for a one-hemisphere flow: ψ ∼ ∆T 1/3 and ψ ∼ ∆T −1/3 for constant and stability-dependent diffusivity, respectively. Here the strength of
the overturning is measured by the maximum value of the streamfunction
in a column located centrally in the hemisphere where the dominating circulation cell has its maximum, viz. maxz∈[0,D] [ψ(y ∼ 3L/4, z)] where z is
the vertical coordinate and D is the basin height. Although this diagram
pertains to the maximum value of the streamfunction over a column in the
dominating cell, it should be noted that analogous results are obtained also
for the minor circulation cell.
The somewhat counter-intuitive result that the overturning strength
decreases with increasing ∆T for the stability-dependent diffusivity parameterization relates to the fact that the intensity of the vertical mixing
becomes weaker when the overall density difference is enhanced. The underlying dynamics can be illustrated as follows: In view of eq. (5), the
68
3 Prescribed surface density
Overturning response diagram
Overturning
2
1
PSfrag replacements
1
10
Temperature difference
F i g u r e 5: Overturning response versus the equator-to-pole temperature difference, ∆T . The overturning as well as the temperature difference are nondimensional and normalized with respect to ∆T = ∆Tr . Circles and squares represent results from the numerical model using constant and stability dependent
diffusivity, respectively, and dotted lines the scale analysis. Axes are logarithmic.
meridional velocity should scale as v ∼ ∆T · H. Since H ∼ ∆T −2/3 for the
case with stability-dependent diffusivity, v ∼ ∆T 1/3 . Hence the meridional
velocity increases with increasing equator-to-pole temperature difference
for both representations of the diffusivity. However, the volume transport
associated with the overturning is proportional to v · H. As a consequence,
we obtain the scaling relation ψ ∼ ∆T −1/3 .
3.2
Varying degree of asymmetry
These numerical experiments were conducted by starting with a reference
state where the thermal boundary condition is symmetric (µ = 0 and ∆T =
1) and hereafter increasing µ while holding ∆T fixed.
As illustrated in Fig. 2, varying the degree of asymmetry proved to completely change the structure of the temperature and streamfunction fields
relative the symmetric circulation mode. The structural change between
the symmetric and asymmetric modes can be described as follows: For
symmetric thermal forcing the coldest water is found at the poles. When
the pole-to-pole temperature difference, µ, is increased, the coldest surface
water is still encountered at the poles in both hemispheres, whereas the
warmest deep water is found at the south pole. Hence the horizontal temperature gradient is reversed below the thermocline. This is illustrated in
Fig. 2 (for µ = 0.5) with the isotherm labeled 5 ◦ C deepening all the way
69
Paper II
Meridional heat transport
Heat transport
2
PSfrag replacements
1
0
−1
SP
E
NP
Latitude
F i g u r e 6: Meridional (northward) heat transport as a function of the latitude
for constant diffusivity. The solid line represents the symmetric case when µ = 0,
the dashed line when µ = 0.5 and the dash-dotted line the fully asymmetric case
when µ = 1. The heat transport is normalized with the maximum heat transport
in the symmetric case.
towards the south pole, implying colder deep water at the equator than at
the south pole.
The meridional heat transport, shown in Fig. 6, takes place from the
equator towards the poles in the symmetric case. For µ = 0.5 the transport
southwards is weak or non-existent (despite the surface being colder at
the south pole than at the equator), since the dominating circulation cell
controls the heat transport in the southern hemisphere. The surface cooling
in the southern hemisphere is most intense in the fully symmetric case and
gets weaker as µ increases. In the completely asymmetric case there is no
surface heat loss at all in the southern hemisphere, and the heat transport
is directed northwards in the entire basin.
Fig. 7 shows the meridional heat transport versus the degree of asymmetry. The maximum poleward heat transport in the southern hemisphere
is seen to decrease quite rapidly as µ grows, and becomes insignificant as µ
approaches 0.5. The cross-equatorial northward heat transport for µ = 0.5
is equally high as the maximum in the symmetric case. It should be emphasized that the responses for constant and stability-dependent diffusivities
are qualitatively similar to changes in the degree of surface-density asymmetry.
Fig. 7 illustrates a key feature of the impact of asymmetric surface density forcing. Primarily, changes in the pole-to-pole density difference cause
a spatial reorganization of the circulation. As the pole-to-pole density dif70
3 Prescribed surface density
Meridional heat transport
Heat transport
2
PSfrag replacements
1
0
−1
0
0.5
1
Degree of asymmetry
F i g u r e 7: Meridional (northward) heat transport as a function of the degree
of asymmetry for constant (circles) and stability-dependent diffusivity (squares).
The solid and dashed lines show the maximum heat transport in the northern and
southern hemisphere, respectively, and the dash-dotted line the heat transport at
the equator. The heat transport is normalized with the maximum heat transport
in the symmetric case.
ference is increased, the dominant cell grows spatially while the subordinate
one shrinks. The decline in strength of the subordinate cell is nearly compensated for by a corresponding increase of the dominating cell. This state
of affairs is visible in Fig. 7, showing that the net poleward heat transport is
of the same order in the symmetric and the fully asymmetric cases (i.e. the
maximum heat flux in the asymmetric case is roughly twice as large as in
the symmetric case). This feature was also pointed out by Klinger and
Marotzke (1999).
It is relevant to mention that these investigators, employing a threedimensional model, conducted a similar investigation of the overturningcirculation response to asymmetric forcing. Qualitatively, their results
agree with the outcome of the present investigation. One difference is,
however, that the asymmetry of the circulation increases more rapidly with
the pole-to-pole density difference in their three-dimensional model than it
does for the present two-dimensional representation.
3.3
Dynamics of asymmetric circulations
As seen above, the horizontal structure of the circulation is considerably
modified when the degree of asymmetry of the thermal forcing is varied. To
illuminate the underlying dynamics we will discuss the difference between
71
Paper II
the symmetric and the fully asymmetric case. We start by the following
qualitative considerations: For a steady state and with constant diffusivity,
the thermodynamic equation (9) is given by
v
∂T
∂T
∂2T
+w
=κ 2.
∂y
∂z
∂z
The equivalent thermal wind equation (5) is
gα ∂T
∂v
=
.
∂z
γ ∂y
Note that the prerequisite for a meridional circulation is that a horizontal
temperature gradient be present. In its absence, v must be constant and
equal to zero due to mass conservation and hence there will be no meridional
circulation.
If we assume that the stratification is controlled by vertical advection
and diffusion and that the vertical velocity is independent of depth, the
following solution to the thermodynamic equation is obtained:
T (y, z) = Ts (y) · ewz/κ .
When z → −∞, T → 0 which implies homogeneous bottom water with no
horizontal gradients. Consonant with the advective-diffusive balance, the
thermocline depth decreases with increasing w. The meridional derivative
is
∂Ts
z ∂w
∂T
=
+ Ts
· ewz/κ .
∂y
∂y
κ ∂y
∂w
s
The two derivatives ∂T
∂y and ∂y determining this temperature gradient may
be of different signs and hence counteract one another. In the southern
hemisphere an essential difference in the relative importance of these terms
is found when comparing the symmetric and the fully asymmetric cases. For
µ = 0 there is a significant and dominating surface-temperature gradient,
implying that ∂w
∂y is negligible. For µ = 1 the opposite holds true, since the
surface-temperature gradient is non-existent and ∂w
∂y alone must control the
horizontal temperature gradient forcing the circulation.
This qualitative discussion is corroborated by Fig. 8 showing the meridional distribution of the vertical velocity. It is seen that the vertical velocity
is more-or-less uniform for µ = 0, and that the latitudinal variations of w
are significant for µ = 1. We can also note that even if there is no surfacetemperature difference between the equator and the south pole when µ = 1,
72
4 Mixed boundary conditions
Vertical velocity
Velocity
2
1
PSfrag replacements
0
SP
E
NP
Latitude
F i g u r e 8: Vertical velocity as function of latitude at constant depth near the
thermocline. The solid line pertains to the symmetric case (µ = 0), and the
dashed line to the fully asymmetric case (µ = 1). Numbers are given in an
arbitrary unit.
a meridional overturning circulation is maintained by the meridional density difference below the thermocline (cf. Fig. 2). This feature depends
crucially on the meridional variations of the vertical velocity.
These considerations suggest that the advective-diffusive balance governs the stratification for the symmetric as well as the asymmetric flow
regimes. For symmetric flows, the density gradient within the thermocline
essentially mirrors the surface density gradient. For asymmetric flows, on
the other hand, horizontal variations of the vertical velocity (yielding variations in the thermocline depth) are crucial for creating and maintaining
the interior density gradients in the stagnant hemisphere.
4
Mixed boundary conditions
In the present section, the equilibrium response of the thermohaline circulation to changes of the surface freshwater flux will be examined. It should be
noted that the surface freshwater flux in the real climate system is directly
linked to the meridional moisture transport in the atmosphere. In all simulations considered here the sea-surface temperature is restored towards the
equatorially-symmetric temperature profile specified in section 2. Following
previous investigations (e.g. Marotzke et al., 1988; Thual and McWilliams,
1992; Klinger and Marotzke, 1999), numerical experiments with fixed thermal surface boundary conditions and varying freshwater forcing will be
73
Paper II
Density distribution
Density difference
1
PSfrag replacements
0
SP
E
NP
Latitude
F i g u r e 9: Distributions of surface density anomaly for R = 0 (solid line),
R = 0.31 (dashed line) and R = 0.38 (dash-dotted line) in the constant-diffusivity
case.
considered. In addition, also experiments with constant freshwater forcing
and varying thermal surface forcing will be analyzed. The primary focus
is on the dynamics of the asymmetric mode of thermohaline circulation,
but a brief discussion of the symmetric mode is provided as a background.
Note that the strength of the freshwater forcing is measured by the nondimensional parameter R, being essentially the ratio between the haline
and thermal buoyancy fluxes; see eq. (10).
4.1
Varying freshwater forcing
Here we consider the outcome of a suite of numerical calculations where
R is gradually increased from zero while keeping the thermal surface forcing constant at ∆T = 1. For each value of R in this suite, the model
was integrated until it attained a steady state. As the freshwater forcing
is increased, a symmetric salinity distribution develops that reduces the
thermally imposed surface density gradient. In fact the temperature and
salinity distributions are strongly correlated in the entire basin: waters with
a high temperature also have a high salinity. As a consequence, the density
contrast in the basin becomes weaker. This tendency is clearly illustrated
in Fig. 9 and Fig. 11, pertaining to calculations using a constant vertical
diffusivity. The results obtained using a stability-dependent diffusivity are
qualitatively similar.
Below a threshold value of the freshwater forcing, the density field remains symmetric, while its amplitude becomes smaller. This decline of the
74
4 Mixed boundary conditions
Temperature
Salinity
T
B
SP
T
E
NP
SP
Density
E
B
NP
Streamfunction
T
T
PSfrag replacements
B
SP
E
NP
SP
E
B
NP
F i g u r e 1 0: The structure of the temperature, salinity, density and streamfunction fields for an asymmetric steady-state solution forced by equatorially
symmetric mixed boundary conditions, where R = 0.38 and constant diffusivity is applied. The isolines are for an arbitrary unit and are the same for the
temperature and density fields. The streamfunction of the dominating cell and
the subordinate cell is represented with solid lines and dotted lines, respectively.
The x-axis is in the meridional direction and the y-axis in the vertical. E is the
equator, SP and NP the south and north pole, respectively, T the top and B the
bottom.
density contrast impacts on the strength of the symmetric overturning in
accordance with the scaling relations, see eqs. (2) and (4). As illustrated
in Fig. 12, the overturning strength becomes weaker when the freshwater
forcing is increased in the model with constant diffusivity; the reverse holds
true for the model with stability-dependent diffusivity. It should be noted
that the meridional heat transport reflects the strength of the overturning.
Thus, a noteworthy feature is that the nature of the vertical mixing decides
whether the oceanic heat transport associated with a symmetric circulation
will increase or decrease when the freshwater forcing is enhanced.
When the freshwater forcing exceeds a critical value, the flow undergoes
a subcritical pitchfork bifurcation (Thual and McWilliams, 1992): the symmetric mode becomes unstable and is succeeded by a new asymmetric equilibrium solution (cf. Fig. 10). The underlying physics are that basin-scale
antisymmetric perturbations now may amplify due to a positive feedback
between flow- and salinity-anomalies (e.g. Walin, 1985; Vellinga, 1996; Dijk75
Paper II
Density difference
Density difference
1
PSfrag replacements
0.9
0.8
1
0.5
0
0
0.2
0.4
0.6
Freshwater forcing
F i g u r e 1 1: Surface density differences as function of freshwater forcing, R, pertaining to the constant diffusivity case. Upper and lower panels show the equatorto-pole and pole-to-pole surface density difference, respectively. The open circles
represent the symmetric circulation mode and the filled circles the asymmetric
mode. Note that the response of the surface density distribution is qualitatively
similar in the case with stability-dependent diffusivity.
stra and Molemaker, 1997). The study due to Nilsson et al. (2004) suggests
that the stability of the symmetric equilibrium is primarily controlled by
the ratio between the haline and the thermal density differences and, furthermore, that the dynamics of the destabilizing antisymmetric perturbations are basically independent of the nature of the vertical mixing. Hence,
the symmetric flow should become unstable when the ratio β∆S/(α∆T )
exceeds a certain threshold, irrespective of how the vertical mixing is parameterized. For the present model the threshold value of β∆S/(α∆T ),
based on the surface fields, proved to be about 0.2. Note that the pitchfork
bifurcation gives rise to two asymmetric equilibrium solutions, which are
mirror images of one another. Which of these states is realized depends on
the details of the perturbation destabilizing the symmetric flow.
Fig. 9 illustrates how the surface density distribution changes in the
transition from a symmetric state to an asymmetric one. It is evident
that the equator-to-pole density difference becomes slightly larger after
the transition. More dramatic, however, is the associated growth of the
surface density anomaly in the high northern latitudes, where a stable
salinity stratification emerges. As the surface temperature field is virtually
constant in the simulations, the changes of the surface density are entirely
due to a reorganization of the salinity field (cf. Fig. 10).
We now focus on the response of the asymmetric mode to varying freshwater forcing. An inspection of Fig. 11 reveals that the degree of asymmetry
76
4 Mixed boundary conditions
Overturning response diagram
Overturning
2
1
PSfrag replacements
0
0
0.2
0.4
0.6
0.8
Freshwater forcing
F i g u r e 1 2: The overturning strength as function of R. Circles and squares pertain to constant and stability-dependent diffusivity, respectively, and open/filled
symbols represent symmetric/asymmetric modes. The overturning is measured
by its maximum value in a mid-latitude column located in the hemisphere where
the dominating cell has its main abode for the asymmetric modes. Note the
overturning strength is presented in nondimensional form and normalized to be
unity when R = 0. The dotted lines show theoretical predictions due to Nilsson and Walin (2001). Note further that the asymmetric solutions obtained for
the largest values of R, using stability-dependent mixing, exhibited a weak time
dependence.
of the surface density field grows with the freshwater forcing. It should be
noted that it is primarily the pole-to-pole density difference which changes,
whereas the density difference between the equator and the pole (where
the deep water is formed) remains essentially unchanged. Basically, the
response of the distribution of density and flow is similar to that examined in section 3.2, where the asymmetry parameter µ was increased while
keeping the equator-to-pole density difference fixed. Fig. 12 shows that
the freshwater forcing enhances the intensity of the dominant cell, while
the subordinate cell simultaneously declines. Note that this holds true for
both representations of the mixing. Actually, in a qualitative sense, the
flow response appears to be insensitive to the nature of the vertical mixing.
The response of the asymmetric modes to changes of the freshwater
forcing can be understood as follows: First it should be recognized that
the surface density in the polar region where the deep water is formed is
basically unchanged: Due to pronounced sinking motion and the associated convective mixing, the surface water in this region will have the same
salinity as the bulk of the deep water, i.e. essentially the mean oceanic
77
Paper II
salinity (Wang et al., 1999). Near the opposite pole, where a stable salinity
stratification is encountered, entirely different processes regulate the surface salinity. Even for a moderate degree of asymmetry, the subordinate
cell is so weak that its advective salinity flux becomes negligible. Thus,
in the stagnant hemisphere the high-latitude surface freshwater flux must
be balanced by a vertical diffusive salinity flux. The upwelling associated
with the main overturning cell serves to keep the halocline depth in the
stagnant hemisphere relatively constant even though R is changed in the
numerical experiments. Since the deep water salinity and the depth of the
halocline remain essentially unchanged, the high-latitude surface salinity
should decline linearly with increasing R in order to give rise to the required diffusive salinity flux. As a consequence, the pole-to-pole salinity
difference (and thereby the density difference) will grow with increasing
freshwater forcing. This furthermore serves to explain why the equator-topole density difference, reflecting the equatorial surface salinity, is relatively
insensitive to R: Stronger freshwater forcing enhances the main overturning cell and its associated salinity transport. Thus a higher value of R
leads to a stronger advective salinity flux within the dominant cell, which
ameliorates the growth of the equatorial near-surface salinity.
It is relevant to note that the conceptual box model due to Rooth (1982)
captures some qualitative aspects of the asymmetric flow simulated by the
present numerical model. According to the model of Rooth, the poleto-pole density difference as well as the overturning strength should be
proportional to R1/2 (Rahmstorf, 1996; Scott et al., 1999)2. As illustrated
in Figs. 12 and 13, the dependence of the dominating cell on R is indeed
slightly weaker than linear. However, the qualitative physical arguments
given above suggested a linear R-dependence of the pole-to-pole density
(i.e. salinity) difference. In fact, this would provide a somewhat better
fit to the results displayed in Fig. 11. It is evident, however, that the
numerically calculated pole-to-pole density differences conform strictly to
neither the R1/2 -dependence nor to the R-dependence. Note furthermore
that the model of Rooth predicts the existence of asymmetric steady states
for arbitrarily weak freshwater forcing, a state of affairs in conflict with
the outcome of many numerical investigations (cf. Thual and McWilliams,
1992; Vellinga, 1996; Dijkstra and Molemaker, 1997) including the present
one.
While the response of the asymmetric flow to freshwater forcing is qualitatively similar for the two representations of diffusivity, there are two
2 Note
that Rooth’s model yields the R1/2 -dependence when the pole-to-pole temperature difference is zero.
78
4 Mixed boundary conditions
Overturning response diagram
Overturning
2
1
PSfrag replacements
0
0
0.2
0.4
0.6
0.8
Freshwater forcing
F i g u r e 1 3: The overturning strength as function of R for stability-dependent
diffusivity. Open/filled symbols represent symmetric/asymmetric modes. For
the asymmetric mode, the responses of the dominating and the subordinate cells
are shown, measured by the maximum overturning in a mid-latitude column in
each hemisphere. Note that the subordinate cell vanishes for stronger freshwater
forcing.
differences that deserve to be emphasized. First, the degree of asymmetry
of the flow is more sensitive to the freshwater forcing when the diffusivity is stability dependent; compare the response of the dominating cell in
Fig. 12. The underlying physics are related to the coupling between the
density stratification and the vertical diffusivity, and can be illuminated as
follows: In the stagnant hemisphere, where a stable salinity stratification
forms, the vertical diffusivity is suppressed. In this region, the surface salinity must thus decrease further to accommodate the diffusive salinity flux
dictated by the prescribed surface freshwater forcing. As a consequence,
the pole-to-pole density difference and the strength of the dominating cell
react more strongly to changes in the freshwater forcing in the model using
the stability-dependent diffusivity.
Second, the stability-dependent diffusivity allows for equilibrium solutions, belonging to the asymmetric branch, which only shows a very weak
degree of asymmetry; see Fig. 13. This has important consequences for
the hysteresis characteristics of the system. Suppose that the flow is in an
asymmetric state and that the freshwater forcing is very slowly decreased.
For the case with stability-dependent diffusivity, the flow would gradually
become less asymmetric, ending with a nearly continuous transition to the
branch of symmetric equilibrium solutions. For the case with constant diffusivity, on the other hand, the transition to the symmetric branch would
79
Paper II
Overturning response diagram
Overturning
1.4
1
PSfrag replacements
0.6
0
2
4
6
8
10
Thermal forcing
F i g u r e 1 4: The response of the dominant cell to changes of ∆T for fixed freshwater forcing. Circles and squares pertain to constant and stability-dependent
diffusivity, respectively. The overturning is measured by its maximum value in
a mid-latitude column in the hemisphere where the dominating cell has its main
abode. The overturning strengths are normalized at ∆T = 1. Note that no
asymmetric solutions were obtained for ∆T > 6 when constant diffusivity was
employed.
be abrupt and associated with a dramatic reorganization of the flow structure. It should be noted that the transition from the symmetric branch to
the asymmetric one is abrupt for both representations of κ.
4.2
Varying thermal forcing
From a climate-change perspective, it is of interest to also examine how
the asymmetric mode of thermohaline circulation responds to changes in
the thermal boundary conditions for a fixed freshwater forcing. Therefore
we have conducted a series of numerical calculations, starting with the
asymmetric flows obtained for R = 0.5 and ∆T = 1, where steady-state
solutions were calculated for increasing values of ∆T , keeping the freshwater
forcing constant. This implies that the steady-state meridional transport
of salinity was the same in all simulations, although the salinity field was
subjected to changes. Note also that for increasing ∆T , the parameter R
decreases, demonstrating a decline of the relative strength of the freshwater
forcing; see eq. (10).
The outcome of the numerical calculations can be summarized as follows. When the amplitude of the symmetric surface temperature was enhanced, the degree of asymmetry of the density field weakened, i.e. the ra80
4 Mixed boundary conditions
tio between the pole-to-pole and equator-to-pole density differences became
smaller. Primarily, this is attributable to a strengthening of the equator-topole density difference created by the temperature field. In fact the salinity
field, and thereby also the pole-to-pole density difference, remained relatively constant for the solutions obtained in the range 1 < ∆T < 3. For
stronger thermal forcing, however, the amplitude as well as the degree
of asymmetry of the salinity field decreased with increasing ∆T . This
behaviour was identified for both representations of the diffusivity. As
shown in Fig. 14, the response of the dominating cell to changes in ∆T
proved to be more subtle. In the model using stability-dependent diffusivity, the dominant cell becomes weaker when the equator-to-pole difference
is enhanced, whereas the opposite holds true in the case of the constantdiffusivity model.
Essentially, the changes of the overturning strength can be understood
on the basis of the results presented in section 3: The strength of an asymmetric flow is basically proportional to that of a symmetric flow forced by
the same overall density difference; the degree of density asymmetry determines primarily the partitioning between the dominant and the subordinate
cell. Thus for a constant freshwater forcing, an increase of ∆T impacts on
the strength of the dominant cell in two different ways. To begin with,
the associated reduction in the degree of asymmetry tends to decrease the
dominant cell. However, the strength of the flow is also affected by the
change of overall density contrast, which increases with ∆T . Thus if the
vertical diffusivity depends on the stability of the water columns, the dominant as well as the subordinate cell should tend to decline in response to a
stronger equator-to-pole temperature difference. For the dominant cell this
response serves to reinforce the alterations induced by the reduced degree
of asymmetry. Hence when the stability-dependent diffusivity is employed,
the strength of the dominant cell should decline when ∆T is increased for
a constant freshwater forcing.
Basically, the reverse applies if the vertical diffusivity is taken to be constant and thus independent of the density stratification. In this case, the
overall amplitude of the flow should tend to grow with increasing ∆T . This
tendency of the dominant cell to strengthen thus serves to counteract the
change caused by the reduction of the density asymmetry. In the present
numerical simulations, the enhancement of the equator-to-pole density difference controlled the dominant-cell response, which intensified as ∆T was
augmented.
It should further be noted that the model based on stability-dependent
mixing yielded asymmetric equilibrium solutions for all the ∆T values in
81
Paper II
the suite of experiments. When constant diffusivity was employed, the
asymmetric solution became unstable when ∆T exceeded 6. For stronger
temperature differences, only symmetric steady states were obtained.
5
Discussion
The present study has focused on the dynamics of symmetric and asymmetric modes of the thermohaline circulation in a two-hemisphere basin. Using
a zonally-averaged numerical model, the dependence of the circulation on
the equator-to-pole as well as the pole-to-pole density difference has been
systematically examined. When the latter quantity is zero, the thermohaline circulation is symmetric, and the dynamical response to changes of
the surface boundary condition can be described with a simple scale theory
showing that the response is sensitive to the physical representation of the
small-scale vertical mixing (Welander, 1986; Nilsson and Walin, 2001; Mohammad and Nilsson, 2004). If, on the other hand, the pole-to-pole density
difference is non-zero, the flow becomes asymmetric. In this case, the symmetric scale theory is still applicable, provided that the overall distribution
of the surface density is preserved. However, if this distribution is permitted to change, the symmetric scale analysis does not suffice to describe the
response of the circulation, which primarily entails a spatial reorganization of the dynamical fields. For an increasing pole-to-pole surface density
difference, the dominating circulation cell is dilated at the expense of the
subordinate cell (Wang et al., 1999). The combined overturning strength of
the two cells only shows modest variations. Note that in this respect there
is no qualitative difference with regard to the two parameterizations of the
vertical mixing. In summary, the nature of the vertical mixing appears
to be crucial for the equilibrium response of the asymmetric thermohaline
circulation when changes of the surface boundary conditions lead to alterations of the density difference between the equator and the pole harboring
the densest surface water (simply denoted the equator-to-pole density difference here).
We believe that the results from the present idealized model may serve
to illuminate how the nature of vertical mixing affects the dynamics of a
two-hemisphere thermohaline circulation. Thus, our investigation should
provide some qualitative information concerning possible impacts of the
vertical mixing on the overturning in the real ocean. However, we underline
that several geophysically relevant processes and features are absent in the
present model. Presumably, the absence of wind forcing and the use of
a single basin lacking a periodic ”Southern Ocean” are the most severe
82
5 Discussion
idealizations underlying the present study. As demonstrated by Toggweiler
and Samuels (1995) as well as Klinger et al. (2003), the impact of wind
forcing on the overturning dynamics is significant in ocean basins with
circumpolar communication. Furthermore, it would be relevant to examine
whether the results from the presently employed zonally-averaged model
are robust in the sense that they essentially can be reproduced by a threedimensional general circulation model.
Keeping the idealized nature of the present model in mind, we proceed
to speculate on the character of an asymmetric thermohaline circulation in
a changed climate. Specifically, we consider a very slow shift of the climatic
conditions, which involves an alteration of the surface heat- and freshwaterfluxes. For a single-hemisphere thermohaline circulation, the equilibrium
response to such a change will depend crucially on the physics of the vertical
mixing, as discussed by e.g. Huang (1999); Nilsson et al. (2003) as well as
Mohammad and Nilsson (2004). What do the present results suggest about
the response of an asymmetric circulation? Unlike the single-hemisphere
case, the details of the changes in the surface forcing appear to decide
whether the vertical mixing controls the response of the asymmetric flow.
For instance an increase of the freshwater forcing primarily leads to an
enhanced pole-to-pole density difference, implying that the dominant cell
intensifies irrespective of the features of the vertical mixing. The underlying
reason is that the area of the dominant cell expands across the equator into
the stagnant hemisphere. Evidently, this structural reorganization has no
counterpart in a single-hemisphere basin. It is relevant to note that results
from ocean-circulation models reported by Wang et al. (1999) as well as
Klinger and Marotzke (1999) also show that a spatially uniform increase in
the surface freshwater forcing tends to promote the overturning cell that
feeds the dominant deep-water formation site.
It should be noted, however, that a climate change is expected to be associated with alterations of the thermal forcing as well as of the freshwater
forcing. Throughout the Earth’s history, the meridional gradient of the surface air temperature has varied considerably, being weak during hot-house
climate regimes (e.g. the Cretaceous) and strong during glacial climates,
cf. Pierrehumbert (2002). The question then is how the hydrological cycle
responds when the equator-to-pole temperature difference is altered. To
limit the scope of our discussion, we focus on a warm climate characterized
by an equator-to-pole temperature difference that is smaller than that of the
present-day climate. Results from atmospheric general circulation models
suggest that the atmospheric poleward flux of moisture in the midlatitudes
should slightly increase in a warm low-gradient climate (Pierrehumbert,
83
Paper II
2002; Caballero and Langen, 2005). It should be recognized, however, that
the moisture flux is affected by two counteracting processes. First, the
temperature increase, which permits a higher atmospheric moisture content. Second, the decrease in temperature gradient, which serves to curtail
the midlatitude eddies that carry the moist air poleward. Depending on
the details of temperature distribution in the hypothetical warm climate,
the moisture flux could thus be stronger as well as weaker than that in the
present-day climate (Caballero and Langen, 2005).
For the sake of argument, we assume that the moisture flux is enhanced
in our hypothetical warm climate. Assuming further that the energy supply to small-scale mixing is invariant (i.e. stability-dependent diffusivity),
we expect to observe the following changes of the asymmetric overturning
circulation: To begin with, the combined effect of an increase in freshwater
forcing and a decrease in ∆T will enhance the degree of asymmetry of the
flow- and density-distributions. Moreover, the decline of the overall oceanic
density contrast will be associated with a strengthening of the dominant
cell; cf. section 3.1. Thus the present idealized study suggests that warm
climates should be associated with a stronger overturning circulation and
hereby a more rapid ventilation of the deep ocean. Evidently, this could
have important implications for the biogeochemistry of the ocean. However, the sensitivity of the overturning strength on ∆T is rather weak (see
Fig. 14). In fact, the present numerical results indicate that the oceanic
heat transport would be diminished in the hypothetical warm climate, despite the overturning strength being enhanced. It deserves to be underlined
that the overturning strength as well as the heat transport would decline
if the vertical diffusivity instead would have remained constant.
Finally it is worth noting that these considerations bear some relevance
for the question whether intense oceanic heat transport could have warmed
the poles during past low-gradient climates (e.g. Lyle, 1997; Pierrehumbert,
2002). The present idealized-model results seem to suggest that it is not
sufficient to keep the energy supply to small-scale mixing constant in order
to drive an enhanced oceanic heat transport in a climate with a reduced
equator-to-pole temperature difference. Rather, the rate of energy supply
to the small-scale turbulent motion that sustains the vertical mixing presumably needs to be increased. In this context, it is of interest to note
that Emanuel (2002) has proposed a mechanism for amplifying the oceanic
heat transport in a warm low-gradient climate. Based on thermodynamical
considerations, he has showed that the intensity of tropical cyclones should
increase in a warmer climate. Thus, the response of the global tropical
cyclone activity serves to enhance the wind-driven mixing in the ocean.
84
Bibliography
Provided that this mixing is sufficiently intense, the oceanic heat transport
may be ramped up. Thus, as a final comment, the present work serves to
illuminate the potential link between warm climatic regimes and alterations
of the energy supply to small-scale mixing in the interior of the ocean.
Acknowledgments
This work was supported by the Swedish National Space Board and the
Swedish Research Council.
Bibliography
Caballero, R., Langen, P. L., 2005. The dynamical range of poleward energy transport in an atmospheric general circulation model. Geophysical
Research Letters 32, doi:10.1029/2004GL021581.
Dijkstra, H. A., Molemaker, M. J., 1997. Symmetry breaking and overturning oscillations in thermohaline-driven flows. Journal of Fluid Mechanics
331, 169–198, doi:10.1357/002224001762842208.
Emanuel, K., 2002. A simple model of multiple climate regimes. Journal of
Geophysical Research 107 (D9), doi:10.1029/2001JD001002.
Huang, R. X., 1999. Mixing and energetics of the oceanic thermohaline circulation. Journal of Physical Oceanography 29 (4), 727–746,
doi:10.1175/1520-0485(1999)029<0727:MAEOTO>2.0.CO;2.
Klinger, B. A., Drijfhout, S., Marotzke, J., Scott, J. R., 2003. Sensitivity of basinwide meridional overturning to diapycnal diffusion and
remote wind forcing in an idealized Atlantic-Southern Ocean geometry. Journal of Physical Oceanography 33, 249–266, doi:10.1175/15200485(2003)033<0249:SOBMOT>2.0.CO;2.
Klinger, B. A., Marotzke, J., 1999. Behavior of double-hemisphere thermohaline flows in a single basin. Journal of Physical Oceanography 29 (3),
382–399, doi:10.1175/1520-0485(1999)029<0382:BODHTF>2.0.CO;2.
Lyle, M., 1997. Could early cenozoic thermohaline circulation have warmed
the poles? Paleoceanography 12 (2), 161–167, doi:10.1029/96PA03330.
Marotzke, J., Welander, P., Willebrand, J., 1988. Instability and multiple
steady states in a meridional-plane model of the thermohaline circulation.
Tellus, Series A 40 (2), 162–172.
85
Paper II
Mohammad, R., Nilsson, J., 2004. The role of diapycnal mixing for the
equlibrium response of thermohaline circulation. Ocean Dynamics 54 (1),
54–65, doi:10.1007/s10236-003-0065-4.
Munk, W. H., Wunsch, C., 1998. Abyssal recipes II: energetics of tidal
and wind mixing. Deep-Sea Research, Part I 45 (12), 1977–2010,
doi:10.1016/S0967-0637(98)00070-3.
Nilsson, J., Broström, G., Walin, G., 2003. The thermohaline circulation
and vertical mixing: Does weaker density stratification give stronger
overturning? Journal of Physical Oceanography 33 (12), 2781–2795,
doi:10.1175/1520-0485(2003)033<2781:TTCAVM>2.0.CO;2.
Nilsson, J., Broström, G., Walin, G., 2004. On the spontaneous transition
to asymmetric thermohaline circulation. Tellus, Series A 56 (1), 68–78,
doi:10.1111/j.1600-0870.2004.00044.x.
Nilsson, J., Walin, G., 2001. Freshwater forcing as a booster of thermohaline circulation. Tellus, Series A 53 (5), 629–641, doi:10.1034/j.16000870.2001.00263.x.
Otterå, O. H., Drange, H., Bentsen, M., Kvamstø, N. G., D., J., 2003.
The sensitivity of the present-day atlantic meridional overturning circulation to freshwater forcing. Geophysical Research Letters 30 (17), 1898,
doi:10.1029/2003GL017578.
Park, Y.-G., Bryan, K., 2000. Comparison of thermally driven circulations from a depth-coordinate model and an isopycnal-layer
model. Part I: Scaling-law sensitivity to vertical diffusivity. Journal of Physical Oceanography 30 (3), 590–605, doi:10.1175/15200485(2000)030<0590:COTDCF>2.0.CO;2.
Pierrehumbert, R. T., 2002. The hydrological cycle in deep-time climate
problems. Nature 419, 191–198, doi:10.1038/nature01088.
Rahmstorf, S., 1996. On the freshwater forcing and transport of the Atlantic
thermohaline circulation. Climate Dynamics 12, 799–811.
Rahmstorf, S., England, M. H., 1997. Influence of southern hemisphere winds on North Atlantic deep water flow. Journal of
Physical Oceanography 27 (9), 2040–2054, doi:10.1175/15200485(1997)027<2040:IOSHWO>2.0.CO;2.
86
Bibliography
Rooth, C., 1982. Hydrology and ocean circulation. Progress In Oceanography 11 (2), 131–149, doi:10.1016/0079-6611(82)90006-4.
Scott, J. R., Marotzke, J., Stone, P. H., 1999. Interhemispheric
thermohaline circulation in a coupled box model. Journal of
Physical Oceanography 29 (3),
351–365,
doi:10.1175/15200485(1999)029<0351:ITCIAC>2.0.CO;2.
Simmons, H. L., Jayne, S. R., St. Laurent, L. C., Weaver, A. J.,
2004. Tidally driven mixing in a numerical model of the ocean general circulation. Ocean Modelling 6 (3–4), 245–263, doi:10.1016/S14635003(03)00011-8.
Stocker, T. F., Wright, D. G., Mysak, L. A., 1992. A zonally averaged, coupled ocean-atmosphere model for paleoclimate
studies. Journal of Climate 5 (8), 773–797, doi:10.1175/15200442(1992)005<0773:AZACOA>2.0.CO;2.
Thual, O., McWilliams, J. C., 1992. The catastrophe structure of thermohaline convection in a two-dimensional fluid model and comparison with
low-order box models. Geophysical and Astrophysical Fluid Dynamics
64 (1–4), 67–95.
Toggweiler, J. R., Samuels, B., 1995. Effect of Drake Passage on the global
thermohaline circulation. Deep-Sea Research, Part I 42 (4), 477–500,
doi:10.1016/0967-0637(95)00012-U.
Toole, J. M., McDougall, T. J., 2001. Mixing and stirring in the ocean
interior. In: Siedler, G., Church, J., Gould, J. (Eds.), Ocean Circulation
and Climate. Vol. 77. Academic Press, Inc., pp. 337–356.
Vellinga, M., 1996. Instability of two-dimensional thermohaline circulation.
Journal of Physical Oceanography 26 (3), 305–319, doi:10.1175/15200485(1996)026<0305:IOTDTC>2.0.CO;2.
Walin, G., 1985. The thermohaline circulation and the control of ice ages.
Paleogeography, Paleoclimatology, Paleoecology 50, 323–332.
Wang, X., Stone, P. H., Marotzke, J., 1999. Global thermohaline circulation. Part I: Sensitivity to atmospheric moisture
transport. Journal of Climate 12 (1), 71–82, doi:10.1175/15200442(1999)012<0071:GTCPIS>2.0.CO;2.
87
Paper II
Wang, Z., Mysak, L. A., 2000. A simple coupled atmosphereocean-sea ice-land surface model for climate and paleoclimate
studies. Journal of Climate 13 (6), 1150–1172, doi:10.1175/15200442(2000)013<1150:ASCAOS>2.0.CO;2.
Welander, P., 1986. Thermohaline effects in the ocean circulation and related simple models. In: Willebrand, J., Anderson, D. L. T. (Eds.),
Large-Scale Transport Processes in Oceans and Atmosphere. D. Reidel
publishing company, pp. 163–200.
Wright, D. G., Stocker, T. F., 1991. A zonally averaged ocean model for the
thermohaline circulation. Part I: Model development and flow dynamics.
Journal of Physical Oceanography 21 (12), 1713–1724, doi:10.1175/15200485(1991)021<1713:AZAOMF>2.0.CO;2.
Wright, D. G., Stocker, T. F., Mercer, D., 1998. Closures used in zonally
averaged ocean models. Journal of Physical Oceanography 28 (5), 791–
804, doi:10.1175/1520-0485(1998)028<0791:CUIZAO>2.0.CO;2.
Wunsch, C., Ferrari, R., 2004. Vertical mixing, energy and the general
circulation of the oceans. Annual Review of Fluid Mechanics 36, 281–
314, doi:10.1146/annurev.fluid.36.050802.122121.
88
Pa p e r I I I
An altimetric study of the
Nordic-Sea region
seasonal cycle
R e z wa n M o h a m m a d , J o h a n N i l s s o n a n d
P e t e r L u n d b e rg
Under review in Deep Sea Research Part I
Abstract
The present study utilizes satellite altimetric data providing Sea-Level
Anomalies (SLAs from 1992 to 2004) to investigate depth-integrated flows
in the Nordic Seas. Focus is on the seasonal cycle of the transports, which
most evidently manifests itself in the winter-to-summer differences. These
flow anomalies are separated into barotropic and baroclinic parts using a
seasonal hydrographic climatology. The baroclinic part is generally weaker
than the barotropic component, which primarily is forced by wind (and
constrained by conservation of potential vorticity to essentially follow the
isobaths). We examine two sections in the Nordic Seas, extending from a
common point in the central Norwegian Sea to Svinøy (on the west coast
of Norway) and the Faroe Islands, respectively. The total barotropic transport through the sections proved to be 12 and 10 Sv stronger during winter
than in summer, respectively. By associating the flow with water masses
on the basis of their salinity properties, it is found that a transport of 8 Sv
is associated with the re-circulation in the interior of the Nordic Seas, the
remainder being related to seasonal changes of the Atlantic inflow across
the Greenland-Scotland ridge. Localized negative transport anomalies are,
somewhat unexpectedly, found in both sections over a well-defined isobath
range centered on 2500 m. This is possibly due to these isobaths extending
into the Arctic basin, where the wind-forcing anomaly does not conform to
that encountered regionally in the Nordic Seas.
91
Paper III
1
Introduction
The northward transport of warm and saline Atlantic surface waters across
the Greenland-Scotland Ridge into the Nordic Seas is of great importance,
not only as a link in the global thermohaline circulation, but also for giving
rise to the comparatively mild climate characterizing northwestern Europe.
This process was first examined by Helland-Hansen and Nansen (1909), but
was not investigated systematically until the International Council for the
Exploration of the Seas (ICES) coordinated the first large-scale overflow
survey in 1960 (Dietrich, 1967). The resulting data set was, among other
things, used for the first mass and heat budget pertaining to the Greenland,
Iceland and Norwegian Seas (Worthington, 1970).
These pioneering investigations were primarily based on standard hydrographic surveys conducted using water bottles and reversing thermometers, a classical technique presently superseded by electronic methods, viz.
the modern CTD. During the last decades, however, satellite-altimetric
techniques have also become operational, hereby providing direct information about the sea-surface topography and, by inference, the large-scale
geostrophically balanced barotropic surface transport. A number of interesting studies based on this methodology have focused on the Atlantic
inflow to the Nordic Seas. These investigations have, however, to a significant extent been devoted to processes of a comparatively local nature
(see e.g. Hátún and McClimans, 2003), or on the oceanic-scale forcing of
the inflow well south of the Greenland-Scotland ridge (Orvik and Skagseth,
2003).
The present study will deal with conditions in the entire Nordic-Sea region, including the Iceland-Scotland gap where a large part of the Atlantic
inflow takes place. The investigation, focusing on the important seasonal
cycle, will be undertaken primarily on the basis of altimetry representing
a merger of data from six different satellite missions. A primary aim is to
examine the response of the depth-integrated circulation to the seasonal
variations of the wind- and buoyancy-induced forcing. In this respect, the
present study is related to the work reported by Isachsen et al. (2003), who
analyzed the time-dependent wind-driven circulation in the Nordic Seas
and Arctic Ocean. The present work will attempt to separate the seasonal variability of the depth-integrated circulation into a baroclinic part,
related to variations in the hydrography, and a barotropic component, related to the horizontal redistribution of mass. Wind forcing dominates
the variability of the barotropic part, whereas the baroclinic part is influenced by surface buoyancy fluxes as well as by wind-induced changes of the
92
2 Data-set description
buoyancy-advection.
We note that the present study is closely related to the investigation
reported by Mork and Skagseth (2005), who also focus on the seasonal cycle
of the Nordic Seas. An important difference between the studies, however,
is that these investigators employ harmonic analysis to extract the annual
cycle, whereas the present study uses the summer-to-winter difference to
describe the annual variation. Further, Mork and Skagseth (2005) apply a
spatial smoothing to their data, whereas we work with the spatial resolution
provided by the original data. As will be demonstrated, the two approaches
highlight slightly different aspects of the seasonal cycle in the Nordic Seas,
hereby providing complementary information on the dynamics.
2
Data-set description
Two data sets, pertaining to the sea-surface elevation and the hydrography of the Nordic Seas, constitute the basis for the present investigation.
When considering the former type of record, it is essential to note that only
sea-level deviations from an average state can be measured using satellite
altimetry, this due to insufficient knowledge of the absolute geoid.
The Sea-Level Anomalies (SLAs) to be used in the forthcoming analyses
were made available by the CLS Space Oceanography Division. The data
were provided on a weekly basis in gridded form with a spatial resolution
better than 0.34 × 0.22 degrees, interpolated and assembled from numerous
overpasses made by different satellites. Although time series encompassing
the entire period 1992 to 2004 were made use of, the present study will
primarily deal with the contrast between seasonal climatological averages.
This restriction is mainly due to our ambition to focus on the fundamental
processes which to lowest order govern the seasonal cycle of the Nordic Seas.
It is, furthermore, also consonant with the properties of the hydrographic
data set, which is not available in time-series form, but only as seasonal
climatologies. The largest variations between seasons prove to be from
winter (defined as January to March) to summer (July to September), why
we choose to study this difference.
The hydrographic information is primarily used to deal with the purely
steric part of the SLAs, caused by the seasonally varying thermal expansion of the water column. The data set utilized was provided by the World
Ocean Database 2001 in the form of a gridded seasonal climatology with
a spatial resolution of 0.3 × 0.3 degrees and the temperature-salinity distribution given at standard levels throughout the entire water column. As
will be seen, this hydrographic climatology is not only useful for correcting
93
Paper III
30°E
Steric height ∆SH
0
20
−5
10
°E
°E
N
80°
−10
75°N
70°N
−15
0°
65°N
PSfrag replacements
60°N
30°W
W N
20° 55°
°W
10
−20
−25
F i g u r e 1: The winter-to-summer difference of the steric height in cm.
the SLA-based estimates of the barotropic velocity field, but also for direct
determination of the baroclinic transports, cf. the appendix.
3
Analysis
A straightforward way of illustrating the seasonal fluctuations of the seasurface height is to calculate the winter-to-summer difference of the SLA.
(This approach has the further advantage of facilitating a direct comparison
with recent result due to Jakobsen et al., 2003.) These sea-surface elevation differences are caused by two processes: pro primo, changes of the
buoyancy in the water column, commonly referred to as the steric-height
anomaly (primarily due to a varying heat content). Pro secundo, horizontal
displacements of mass. This is to a large extent forced by seasonal changes
of the large-scale atmospheric circulation.
3.1
The entire region
First we will consider the winter-to-summer steric-height difference ∆SH
estimated using the seasonal climatological hydrographic data. The results
94
3 Analysis
Baroclinic streamfunction
30°E
4
°E
5
3
20
N
80°
75°N
10
°E
2
70°N
1
0
0°
65°N
PSfrag replacements
60°N
−1
30°W
W N
20° 55°
°W
10
−2
F i g u r e 2: The winter-to-summer difference of the baroclinic streamfunction in
Sv. The white lines represent equidistant isobaths with 1000 m spacing.
are shown in Fig. 1. Note that, just as in the case of the SLA, the steric
height is given in terms of an anomaly, since the choice of reference is
somewhat arbitrary. As expected, the steric height tends to be lower during
winter than in summer, this due to a reduced oceanic buoyancy content.
The results due to Mork and Skagseth (2005) show that in the bulk of the
Nordic Seas, the steric height attains its maximum around September and
that the annual cycle of this quantity is primarily forced by local air-sea
heat exchange. An interesting exception is, however, that found in Fig. 1
along the Barents-Sea shelf slope north of the Lofoten peninsula in Norway.
A closer inspection of the original data set reveals that this is caused by a
winter-time maximum, presumably due to an enhanced advection of “warm”
Atlantic water. This, in turn, is associated with the Norwegian Atlantic
Slope Current being stronger during winter due to an increased wind forcing
(Skagseth, 2004).
The changes of the stratification, which cause the steric-height anomalies, also give rise to anomalies in the potential energy of the water column.
These affect the circulation, since the depth-integrated baroclinic flow is directly related to the horizontal gradients of the column-integrated potential
95
Paper III
energy (cf. the appendix). Fig. 2 illustrates the winter-to-summer difference of the depth-integrated baroclinic flow, i.e. the difference in transport
associated with the hydrographic changes. (Note that the results in Fig. 2
are represented in terms of a horizontal transport streamfunction, which is
proportional to the winter-to-summer difference in column-integrated potential energy.) In the Nordic Seas, the anomalies of the depth-integrated
baroclinic flow attain a magnitude of about 5 Sv. The results furthermore
manifest a tendency towards regions dominated by positive values, implying local anomalies with an anticyclonic circulation. Fig. 2 reveals that the
baroclinic flow anomalies generally are associated with cross-isobath transports. Off Lofoten, the hydrographic changes thus displace the baroclinic
flow towards the central basin during winter. It should be emphasized,
however, that the baroclinic anomalies of the bottom velocity are by definition aligned with the bathymetry (cf. the appendix) and hence do not
induce vertical velocity anomalies.
We now subtract ∆SH from the winter-to-summer difference of the “raw”
SLA fields, resulting in a depth-independent seasonal pressure difference
∆SLA referred to as barotropic, cf. the appendix. (Note that ∆SLA is proportional to the bottom pressure anomaly.) This quantity is shown in
Fig. 3, in connection with which it may be noted that the steric contribution is generally only a small part of the “raw” winter-to-summer SLA
difference. From the figure it is seen that in the central basin of the Nordic
Seas the sea level is lower during winter that in summer, whereas the opposite holds true adjacent to the coasts, the sea level here being higher during
winter. From the graph it is also evident that ∆SLA is strongly correlated
with the bathymetry. We thus conclude that the seasonal change of the
barotropic currents essentially takes place in a direction parallel with the
isobaths, as indeed expected on dynamical grounds. We furthermore note
that a particularly pronounced gradient of the ∆SLA is encountered near
the 1000-m isobath on the eastern side of the basin. This feature can be
traced from the Atlantic proper all the way to the region north of Lofoten,
consonant with previous results due to Skagseth et al. (2004).
It may also be noted that in an overall sense the sea level is depressed
in the Nordic Seas during winter. Evidently this is linked to a large-scale
redistribution of mass, why we next focus on the seasonal changes in transports which can be deduced from gradients of the ∆SLA on the basis of
assuming that the flow takes place in a geostrophic fashion. In particular, we are interested in examining the inflow of Atlantic water across the
Iceland-Scotland Ridge and to possibly determine whether this transport
can be separated from the re-circulation taking place within the south96
3 Analysis
30°E
SLA minus steric height η0
10
20
5
10
°E
°E
N
80°
0
75°N
70°N
0°
65°N
PSfrag replacements
60°N
−5
−10
30°W
W N
20° 55°
°W
10
F i g u r e 3: The winter-to-summer difference of SLA minus the steric height in
cm. The white lines represent equidistant isobaths with 1000 m spacing. No SLA
data are available in ice-covered areas.
eastern part of the Nordic Seas, cf. Isachsen et al. (2003). With this in
mind, we choose to study two sections in greater detail, both located in the
southern part of the Norwegian Sea (cf. Fig. 4). One of them to a large extent coincides with the classical Svinøy hydrographical section traversing a
region of considerable oceanographic interest, cf. Mosby (1959). The other
extends north-northeastwards from the Faroe Islands, and represents an
oceanographically important transect (Hansen et al., 2003) which in what
follows will be denoted the Faroe section.
3.2
The Svinøy section
We start by examining conditions along the Svinøy section, which for our
purposes is taken to extend from the coast of Norway northwestwards into
the Norwegian Sea to a depth of 3600 m. It is located athwart two important pathways of the Atlantic inflow to the Nordic Seas, viz. the Norwegian
Atlantic Current and the Norwegian Atlantic Slope Current (Orvik et al.,
2001; Orvik and Niiler, 2002).
After having retrieved ∆SH and ∆SLA along the section, we first examine
97
Paper III
Bathymetry and data sections
00
sec
30
00
n
io
ct
se
20
Fa
roe
y
64°N
ø
in
Sv
tion
66°N
00
10
62°N
PSfrag replacements
60°N
6°W
3°W
0°
3°E
6°E
F i g u r e 4: The bathymetry of the Nordic-Sea region with equidistant isobaths
with 500 m spacing. The location of the Svinøy and Faroe sections are marked
in the figure. The Faroes, Shetland and a small part of western Norway is gray
shaded.
the winter-to-summer anomaly of the total surface-layer velocity normal to
the Svinøy transect. This is calculated using the geostrophic assumption
and is shown in Fig. 5, where northeastwards-directed flow anomalies are
seen to dominate the section with the exception of one distinct zone. This
region, where the surface-current anomaly is directed southwestwards, is
found at bottom depths of around 2500 m approximately 300 km from the
coast. It can, most likely, be identified with a similar feature visible in the
analogously represented drifter data reported by Jakobsen et al. (2003).
We hereafter direct attention towards the depth-integrated transport
anomalies which ultimately lead to a re-distribution of mass within the
basin. They are determined by applying the analytical methods outlined in
the appendix to ∆SLA and ∆SH . In Fig. 6 the winter-to-summer barotropic
and baroclinic transport anomalies across the Svinøy section are shown in
cumulative form, cf. the transport streamfunction defined in the appendix.
The accumulated barotropic transport anomaly is on the order of 10 Sv,
a seasonal deviation exceeding Worthington’s (1970) classical 7-Sv estimate
of the yearly-averaged Iceland-to-Scotland surface-water inflow to the Norwegian Sea. The most likely reason for this unexpected state of affairs is
that the altimetric transect also encompasses an as yet undefined fraction of
98
3 Analysis
Svinøy section velocity anomalies
30
15
25
20 15
10 5
10
5
0
PSfrag replacements
−5
−10
500
400
300
200
100
0
Distance from the coast
F i g u r e 5: The winter-to-summer difference of the surface velocities at the Svinøy section in cm/s. Positive values are directed northeastwards. The distance
from the coast is given in km. The upper scale shows the depth in hm.
the re-circulation characterizing the interior of the Nordic Seas (Jakobsen
et al., 2003; Isachsen et al., 2003), a topic to be dealt with in greater detail
in section 4 of the present study. A closer examination of the depth interval
between 500 and 1000 m in Fig. 6 (displayed to better advantage in Fig. 10)
reveals a northwards-directed winter-to-summer transport anomaly of the
magnitude 5 Sv, in reasonable agreement with estimates based on direct
current measurements reported by Orvik et al. (2001).
The accumulated baroclinic transport anomaly shown in Fig. 6 (derived
from an interpolated hydrographic climatology) can be compared with the
seasonally averaged transports obtained by applying the dynamic method
(Fomin, 1964) to 1955–1996 synoptic hydrographic data from the Svinøy
section proper (Mork and Blindheim, 2000). The two sets of results are
found to be in broad agreement, indicating that the hydrographic climatology (WOD 2001) is adequate for correcting the “raw” SLA results with
regard to steric-height effects. In this context it also deserves mention
that the presently calculated annually averaged baroclinic flow across the
Svinøy section agrees reasonably well with classical results from the Sognefjord section (Helland-Hansen, 1934), even though the locations of the two
transects differ somewhat.
3.3
The Faroe section
As we discuss the results from the transect extending 500 km north-northeastwards from the Faroe Islands, it must be kept in mind that this setting
differs considerably from that previously encountered along the Svinøy sec99
Paper III
Svinøy section transport anomalies
30
15
25
20 15
10 5
10
5
PSfrag replacements
0
−5
500
400
300
200
100
0
Distance from the coast
F i g u r e 6: The winter-to-summer difference of the barotropic (solid line) and
baroclinic (dashed line) parts of the cumulative transport anomalies through the
Svinøy section in Sv. The distance from the coast is given in km. The upper
scale shows the depth in hm.
tion. The most important dissimilarity is that the Faroe section traverses
the Iceland-Faroe front (Hansen and Meincke, 1979). The surface location of this permanent feature of the southern Norwegian Sea is generally
identified with that of the 35 isohaline, whereas in the vertical the front
terminates more-or-less on the crest of the Iceland Faroes ridge. Fig. 7
shows the winter and summer location of the 35 isohaline in the Faroe
section, illustrating that Atlantic water accumulates adjacent to the Faroe
Islands during winter. An intrusion of warm and high-saline water of Atlantic origin thus characterizes the southern reaches of the Norwegian Sea,
although it must be noted that the precise location of the front is subject
to considerable variations (Hopkins, 1991).
As regards the Faroe section (cf. Fig. 4) an interesting consequence is
that the Iceland-Faroe branch of the Atlantic inflow is orientated almost
due eastwards immediately north of the Faroes. Particularly during winter
this climatologically important transport manifests itself hydrographically
as a distinct wedge of Atlantic water overlying the deeper water masses of
mainly northerly origin (Hansen et al., 2003), and is also, as will be seen,
clearly discernible in the altimetric results.
On the basis of ∆SH - and ∆SLA -data retrieved along the section, we
start by looking at the winter-to-summer anomaly of the total surfacelayer velocity normal to the Faroe transect (which terminates at a depth of
3400 m). Fig. 8 thus shows the geostrophically determined total surfacelayer velocity anomaly. Here easterly-directed velocity anomalies dominate
except for a zone at around 200 km from the Faroe coast, where the velocity
100
3 Analysis
Salinity at the Faroe section
30 25
0
20 10
100
200
300
PSfrag replacements400
500
400
300
200
100
0
Distance from the coast
F i g u r e 7: The location of the 35 isohaline during winter (solid line) and summer (dashed lines) at the Faroe section. The distance from the coast is given in
km. The upper scale shows the depth in hm.
anomalies have the opposite direction. This feature may be related to the
abovementioned presence of the Iceland-Faroe front, which due to stronger
forcing is more pronounced during winter than in summer. However, as
to be further discussed in next section, it is also possible that the basinwide forcing along the 2500-m isobath plays a role for maintaining this
“reverse-flow” anomaly. (In this context it deserves to be underlined that
the negative velocity anomaly is a barotropic phenomenon since the seasonal change in stratification tends to produce positive velocity anomalies
in this zone.) A direct comparison between the overall results summarized
in Fig. 8 and the analogously represented drifter data assembled by Jakobsen et al. (2003) proved somewhat inconclusive; it must, however, be noted
that no overtly contradictory features were discernible in the two data sets.
Using the techniques described in the appendix we now examine the
depth-integrated winter-to-summer transport anomalies, cf. Fig. 9. The
cumulative barotropic transport across the Faroe transect is seen to be on
the order of 10 Sv, viz. roughly of the same magnitude as in the Svinøysection case. Particular note should be taken that immediately adjacent
to the Faroe coast a direct comparison with current-meter results is feasible, since an ADCP-array has been operational here since the mid-1990s
(Hansen et al., 2003). Fig. 9 thus shows that the integrated barotropic
seasonal transport anomaly over the depth interval terminating at around
1500 m is 3 ∼ 4 Sv. This is in rough agreement with results due to Hansen
et al. (2003), viz. that the seasonal transport difference was around 2 Sv,
when account is taken of the fact that the current measurements reported
by these authors were focused on the upper 600 m of the water column.
101
Paper III
Faroe section velocity anomalies
30 25
10
20 10
5
0
PSfrag replacements
−5
400
300
200
100
0
Distance from the coast
F i g u r e 8: The winter-to-summer difference of the surface velocities at the
Faroe section in cm/s. Positive values are directed eastwards. The distance
from the coast is given in km. The upper scale shows the depth in hm.
Faroe section transport anomalies
30 25
15
20 10
10
5
0
PSfrag replacements
−5
−10
400
300
200
100
0
Distance from the coast
F i g u r e 9: The winter-to-summer difference of the barotropic (solid line) and
baroclinic (dashed line) parts of the cumulative transport anomalies through the
Faroe section in Sv. The distance from the coast is given in km. The upper scale
shows the depth in hm.
102
4 Discussion
Barotropic transport anomalies
15
10
5
0
Baroclinic transport anomalies
5
0
−5
−10
Total transports anomalies
10
PSfrag replacements
5
0
−5
3500 3000 2500 2000 1500 1000
500
0
Depth
F i g u r e 1 0: The winter-to-summer difference of the barotropic part of the cumulative transport through the Svinøy (solid) and Faroe (dashed) sections in Sv
as functions of the bottom depth, given in m.
It can also be remarked that the cumulative barotropic transport anomaly
shows a local maximum at 150 ∼ 200 km from the Faroe coast, approximately coinciding with the location of the Iceland-Faroe front.
As we direct attention to the accumulated baroclinic transport anomaly
in Fig. 9, it may be noted that also these results appear to be affected by
the Iceland-Faroe front, cf. the “dip” at 150 ∼ 200 km from the coast.
This minimum reflects the seasonal variation of the front, cf. Fig. 7. Furthermore, we note that the seasonal changes in baroclinic transport are
more pronounced in the Faroe section than in the Svinøy section, where
the winter-to-summer difference in the hydrography is less pronounced.
4
Discussion
In order to facilitate an overview of the circulation in the southern part
of the Norwegian Sea, we commence by a direct comparison between the
results from the Svinøy and Faroe sections. Since the requirement of con103
Paper III
served potential vorticity tends to restrict oceanic flows to a specific isobath,
the two sets of transport-anomaly results have in Fig. 10 been graphed versus local bottom depth. On the basis of this representation in terms of
the bathymetry, the distributions of the transport anomalies over the two
sections are qualitatively similar. Note, however, that the baroclinic results
differ for depths above 2500 m due to the seasonal variations of the IcelandFaroe front (a feature which does not have any counterpart on the Svinøy
section where the seasonal changes of the hydrography are insignificant,
cf. the middle panel of Fig. 10). This baroclinic deviation characterizing
the outer parts of the Faroe section serves to compensate for the analogous
barotropic local maximum, yielding approximately similar total-transport
anomalies for the two sections. However, the resolution and accuracy of the
present data are presumably not high enough to capture the full details of
how the transport anomaly along an isobath varies between the Faroe and
Svinøy sections. As an example it can be noted that for the 1500-m isobath, Fig. 10 reveals a difference in barotropic transport anomaly between
the two sections of 4 Sv, indicating a cross-isobath transport anomaly of
the same magnitude. We note that along an isobath it would require a
mere 2 cm surface-height difference to generate a cross-isobath transport
anomaly on this order. A straightforward estimate, however, shows that
a cross-isobath flow of 4 Sv would induce a vertical velocity anomaly on
the order of 10−4 m/s. This is about 100 times stronger than the mean
wind-induced Ekman pumping in the region (Nøst and Isachsen, 2003). An
error of one to two cm is to be expected over the shelf slope, where the
dynamics are inadequately resolved by the gridded SLA data employed for
the present study. Thus, the differences in barotropic transport anomaly
between the two sections for the same isobaths may be attributable to an
error of the estimated along-isobath SLA difference.
In the region with depths exceeding around 3000 m the transport anomalies are, according to Fig. 10, positive. This result is expected, since the
circulation in the central Norwegian Sea is strongly controlled by topography and mainly forced by the wind. The deep isobaths here form closed
contours around the Norwegian Sea and Lofoten basin and the prevailing
cyclonic wind forcing is stronger during winter than in summer (Isachsen
et al., 2003).
Fig. 10 shows that in the zone with bottom depths between 2300 and
3000 m there are significant and conspicuous negative transport anomalies, corresponding to the previously discussed negative velocity anomalies
(cf. Fig. 5 and 8). It should be noted that these comparatively well-localized
negative anomalies are not identified in the studies due to Isachsen et al.
104
Open and closed isobaths
40°
E
85°N
50°E 60°E
4 Discussion
°E
80°N
10
30
3000
20
°E
75°N
10
00
00
70°N
°E
10
65°N
PSfrag replacements
20°W
10°W
0°
F i g u r e 1 1: Open 1000-m and closed 3000-m isobath contours in the Nordic
Seas. Irrelevant isobath contours are not included in the figure.
105
Paper III
(2003) and Mork and Skagseth (2005). (The former study only took into
account the leading EOF of the SLA, which is dominated by the large spatial scales. The latter investigation applied spatial smoothing the the SLA
field, thereby suppressing small-scale features.) The negative transport
anomalies are of the same order of magnitude as the positive anomalies
for bottom depths greater than around 3000 m, why they to a large extent
cancel one another. Hence, the net volume transport anomalies for depths
greater than 2300 m are almost zero. There is a distinct possibility that this
feature can be explained by the geographic distribution of the isobaths over
this intermediate bottom-depth range. In contrast to the deeper isobaths,
which form closed contours within the Norwegian Sea and Lofoten Basin,
the closed contours associated with the more shallow isobaths extend well
into the Arctic Basin, cf. Fig. 11. The flow, which is topographically guided,
is forced by the wind stress acting around the entire closed depth contour
under consideration (Nøst and Isachsen, 2003; Isachsen et al., 2003). Thus
the flow is governed by the global characteristics of the wind, rather than
those of a purely local nature. Accordingly, the negative transport anomalies may reflect that over the depth contours that girdle the Arctic and
Nordic Seas, the integrated surface stress is weaker during winter than in
summer. It must, however, at all time be kept in mind that the transports
discussed here only represent deviations from a mean flow in an over-all
north-eastwards direction (Nøst and Isachsen, 2003; Jakobsen et al., 2003).
Where the bottom depths are less than 2300 m the transport anomaly
is positive. This zone may conveniently be divided into two subregions:
One deeper than the 400 ∼ 500 m threshold constituted by the GreenlandScotland Ridge and one where the isobaths communicate directly with the
Atlantic proper south of the ridge. To pursue the analysis along lines consonant with these characteristics, it proves convenient to examine the cumulative barotropic transport anomaly distributions ∆M (S) across the sections
as functions of the salinity (cf. the Appendix). (Accordingly ∆M (S = 35)
represents the total barotropic transport of waters with S ≤ 35 through
the transect, i.e. 8 Sv). Based on the previously employed seasonal hydrographic climatologies, the results are shown in Fig. 12 encompassing the
pertinent salinity range 34.85 to 35.25. Two features of the flow anomalies
∆M (S) should be particularly noted. To begin with, the functions ∆M (S)
are nearly identical for the two sections, in contrast to the barotropic transport anomalies graphed versus the depth in Fig. 10. The underlying reason
is that the isohalines are nearly horizontal, implying that the transport
anomaly over a certain salinity range is made up of constituents from locations that are distributed laterally over the sections. This horizontal
106
4 Discussion
Barotropic transport anomalies ∆M (S)
15
10
5
PSfrag replacements
0
34.9
35
35.1
35.2
Salinity
F i g u r e 1 2: The winter-to-summer difference of the barotropic part of the cumulative transport distributions through the Svinøy (solid) and Faroe (dashed)
sections in Sv as functions of salinity.
integration reduces the sensitivity to SLA errors. Second, the conspicuous
negative flow anomalies in Fig. 10 are absent in Fig. 12. It is the horizontal
integration in the construction of the function ∆M (S) that yields a net
positive transport anomaly for each salinity, although negative anomalies
are encountered locally over both sections.
The integrated volume transport anomaly for low-saline water (S <
34.91) is virtually zero, the minor contribution arising from the comparatively fresh Norwegian Coastal Current on the Svinøy section being negligible. Between the salinities 34.91 and 34.92 there is, however, an abrupt
change of almost 7 Sv in the cumulative transport anomaly. This corresponds to the transport of Norwegian Sea Deep Water, which constitutes
the bulk of the interior basin water due to its great depth and horizontal extent (Mosby, 1959). The waters originating in the Nordic Seas are
characterized by salinities below 35 (Swift, 1986). The cumulative volume
transport anomaly of these water masses is around 8 Sv, which evidently
is associated with the re-circulation in the interior of the Nordic Sea basin
and furthermore is in broad agreement with quantitative numerical-model
results as well as empirical evidence reported by Isachsen et al. (2003).
The cumulative transport anomaly for more saline waters (S > 35) is
undoubtedly related to variations of the Atlantic inflow. It is, however,
important to emphasize that Fig. 12 does not represent the total inflow
variation since, pro primo, baroclinic flow is not included and, pro secundo,
interactions between the mean flow and the seasonal variations of the hydrography are not taken into account, cf. the appendix. To illuminate the
latter effect, it is instructive to consider Fig. 7: Suppose that there is a
107
Paper III
uniform positive mean velocity over the entire section. In this situation,
it is evident that the transport of water having a salinity higher than 35
would be diminished in winter, when area of occupied by the wedge of
high-saline water is reduced. Since this effect is not accounted for in the
result shown in Fig. 12, it will act to cancel out the 2-Sv seasonal cycle of
high-saline waters (S > 35). The seasonality of the total barotropic transport of these water masses will be more consonant with previous estimates
(Hansen et al., 2003) of the Atlantic inflow based on ADCP measurements,
which do not show any seasonal cycle.
Fig. 12 shows that across the Svinøy section the barotropic transport
of high-saline waters (S > 35) is somewhat more than 3 Sv higher during
winter than in summer. (Note that this result does not include the contribution from the mean flow, since the altimetric data set only provides
anomalies.) This is in the same order of magnitude as transport estimates
based on measurements (Orvik et al., 2001).
In this context it may also be worth underlining that the salinity is
not only a useful parameter when, as here, analyzing more-or-less local
features of the flow. From a larger-scale perspective provided by the global
thermohaline circulation, the salinity properties of the Atlantic inflow to
the Nordic Seas are crucial for determining whether winter-time convection
in the Greenland Sea will take place.
5
Conclusions
On the basis of hydrographic and altimetric data, we have studied the
winter-to-summer flow difference in the Nordic Seas, with emphasis on the
Faroe and Svinøy sections. We find that the volume transports across
the two sections are some 10 Sv stronger in winter than in summer. The
winter-time enhancement of the flow is primarily of a barotropic character,
presumably a response to the seasonal cycle of the wind forcing. However, at the Faroe section hydrographic changes yield significant baroclinic
transport anomalies, tending to counteract those of a barotropic character.
The present analysis furthermore reveals that at the Svinøy section the
seasonal cycle of the baroclinic transport is relatively weak. Off Lofoten
the baroclinic transport has a much more pronounced seasonal variation.
To summarize, the investigation presented here shows that the winterto-summer changes of the transport within the Nordic Seas previously derived from current-meter records is reproducible with reasonable accuracy
from altimetric data and climatological hydrography. Due to an unknown
mean flow and inadequately resolved near-shore velocity anomalies, the
108
5 Conclusions
present study is, however, not capable of directly estimating the seasonal
transport variation of Atlantic water along across the Faroe section.
Along the closed isobaths in the interior of the Nordic Seas a barotropic
re-circulation is encountered, which is around 8 Sv stronger in winter than
during summer. However, both on the Svinøy and the Faroe sections there
is a range of bottom depths which are characterized by negative barotropic
transport anomalies. The present study has not focused on identifying the
physical mechanisms giving rise to these negative anomalies. A plausible
explanation may, however, be that the isobaths in this range of bottom
depths (between 2300 and 3000 m) extend well into the Arctic basin, where
the wind-forcing characteristics differ from those in the Nordic Seas. (Note
that due to permanent sea ice, parts of the Arctic basin are shielded from
the direct effects of the wind forcing.) These issues will be addressed in a
forthcoming study, where also the correlation between the transports and
the wind forcing will be analyzed with respect to its time-scale dependence.
Acknowledgments
The work herein reported was undertaken on the basis of a grant from the
Swedish National Space Board. The altimeter products were made available by the CLS Space Oceanography Division as part of the Environment
and Climate EU ENACT project (EVK2-CT2001-00117) and with support
from CNES. We also thank Thomas Rossby for interesting and rewarding
discussions.
Appendix
We will here derive some relations pertaining to stratified flows in hydrostatic and geostrophic balance. The hydrostatic equation is given by
∂p
= −gρr (1 − q),
∂z
(1)
where ρr = ρ(34.9, 0, P ) is a reference density characterizing the deep water
and q = q(x, y, z, t) is a measure of the density anomaly. We integrate the
hydrostatic equation upwards from the bottom, which yields
Z z
q dz + p0 (x, y) − gρr z.
(2)
p(x, y, z) = gρr
−H
Here H(x, y) is the depth and p0 is the “barotropic”pressure anomaly. Note
that p0 = pb − gρr H, where pb is the bottom pressure; see the discussion
given in Nilsson et al. (2005).
109
Paper III
The (linearized perturbation) surface pressure is related to the seasurface height (say η) according to p(z = 0) = gρr η. Thus, eq. (2) yields
the relation
Z 0
q dz + p0 /(gρr ).
(3)
η=
−H
This motivates us to introduce
Z 0
ηq =
q dz; η0 = p0 /(gρr ),
(4)
−H
where ηq will be denoted the steric-height anomaly and η0 is the contribution to sea-surface height associated with the barotropic pressure anomaly.
In the main body of the present study focus is on ηq (winter)−ηq (summer) =
∆SH and η0 (winter) − η0 (summer) = ∆SLA .
We assume that the flow obeys the geostrophic balance
f k × u = −ρr −1 ∇h p,
(5)
where u = (u, v) is the horizontal velocity component, f the Coriolis parameter, k a vertical unit vector, and ∇h the horizontal gradient operator.
By using this relation and eq. (2), we obtain
Z z
g
1
u = k × ∇h
q dz +
k × ∇p0 .
(6)
f
f
ρr
−H
The r.h.s. of this expression is constituted by a baroclinic and barotropic
velocity component, to be denoted uq and u0 , respectively. Straightforward calculations show that the depth-integrated flow associated with uq
is described by the baroclinic-transport streamfunction
ψq = −
g
f
Z
0
z · q dz.
(7)
−H
(Note that f · ψq equals the column-integrated potential energy.)
For a specified transect (e.g. the Faroe or the Svinøy section), we define
the following volume transport function (cf. Walin, 1982)
ZZ
M (S, t) =
v(x, y, z, t) dA,
A(S)
where v is the velocity normal to the section and A(S) is the area in the
section where the salinity is less than S. Thus, M (S) represents the volume
110
Bibliography
transport through the section of water having a salinity less than S. We
are concerned with the winter-to-summer difference of M (S), i.e. ∆M (S) =
Mw (S) − Ms (S) where the subscripts w and s refer to the winter and the
summer season, respectively.
ZZ
ZZ
∆M (S) =
vw (x, y, z) dA −
vs (x, y, z) dA.
(8)
Aw (S)
As (S)
We introduce v = (vw + vs )/2 and ∆v = (vw − vs )/2, which allows us to
write
ZZ
ZZ
ZZ
∆M (S) =
v dA +
∆v dA +
∆v dA. (9)
Aw (S)−As (S)
Aw (S)
As (S)
As we do not have knowledge of the mean flow v, we have in the main body
of the present study only calculated the contributions to ∆M (S) from the
last two r.h.s.-terms of eq. (9).
Bibliography
Dietrich, G., 1967. The international “overflow” expedition (ICES) of the
Iceland-Faroe ridge, May–June 1960. Rapports et Procès-Verbaux des
Réunions Conseil International pour l’Exploration de la Mer 157, 268–
274.
Fomin, L. M., 1964. The Dynamic Method in Oceanography. Elsevier Publ.
Co.
Hansen, B., Meincke, J., 1979. Eddies and meanders in the Iceland-Faeroe
Ridge area. Deep-Sea Research 26, 1067–1082.
Hansen, B., Østerhus, S., Hátún, H., Kristiansen, R., Larsen,
K. M. H., 2003. The Iceland-Faroe inflow of Atlantic water
to the Nordic Seas. Progress in Oceanography 59 (4), 443–474,
doi:10.1016/j.pocean.2003.10.003.
Helland-Hansen, B., 1934. The Sognefjord Section. Oceanographic observations in the northernmost part of the North Sea and the southern part of
the Norwegian Sea. In: James Johnstone Memorial Volume. University
Press of Liverpool, UK, pp. 257–274.
Helland-Hansen, B., Nansen, F., 1909. The Norwegian Sea, its physical
oceanography. based on the Norwegian researches 1900–1904. Report on
Norwegian fishery and marine investigations 2 (2), 1–359.
111
Paper III
Hopkins, T. S., 1991. The GIN sea — a synthesis of its physical oceanography and literature review 1972–1985. Earth Science Reviews 30, 175–318.
Hátún, H., McClimans, T. A., 2003. Monitoring the Faroe Current using
altimetry and coastal sea-level data. Continental Shelf Research 23 (9),
859–868, doi:10.1016/S0278-4343(03)00059-1.
Isachsen, P. E., LaCasce, J. H., Mauritzen, C., Häkkinen, S., 2003. Winddriven variability of the large-scale recirculating flow in the Nordic Seas
and Arctic Ocean. Journal of Physical Oceanography 33 (12), 2534–2550,
doi:10.1175/1520-0485(2003)033<2534:WVOTLR>2.0.CO;2.
Jakobsen, P. K., Ribergaard, M. H., Quadfasel, D., Schmith, T.,
Hughes, C. W., 2003. Near-surface circulation in the northern North
Atlantic as inferred from Lagrangian drifters: Variability from the
mesoscale to interannual. Journal of Geophysical Research 108 (C8),
3251, doi:10.1029/2002JC001554.
Mork, K., Skagseth, Ø., 2005. Annual sea surface height variability in
the nordic seas. In: Climate Variability in the Nordic Seas. Geophysical Monograph Series, AGU. American Geophysical Union, in press.
Mork, K. A., Blindheim, J., 2000. Variations in the Atlantic inflow to the
Nordic Seas, 1955-1996. Deep Sea Research Part I 47 (6), 1035–1057,
doi:10.1016/S0967-0637(99)00091-6.
Mosby, H., 1959. Deep water in the Norwegian Sea. Geophysica Norvegica
21 (3), 1–62.
Nilsson, J., Broström, G., Walin, G., 2005. Steady f-plane circulation arising from a prescribed buoyancy distribution in basins with sloping boundaries; or the role of bottom friction for creating a thermohaline circulation, submitted to Journal of Marine Research.
Nøst, O., Isachsen, P., 2003. The large-scale time-mean ocean circulation in the Nordic Seas and Arctic Ocean estimated from
simplified dynamics. Journal of Marine Research 61 (2), 175–210,
doi:10.1357/002224003322005069.
Orvik, K. A., Niiler, P., 2002. Major pathways of Atlantic water in the
northern North Atlantic and Nordic Seas toward Arctic. Geophysical
Research Letters 29 (19), 1896, doi:10.1029/2002GL015002.
112
Bibliography
Orvik, K. A., Skagseth, Ø., 2003. The impact of the wind stress
curl in the North Atlantic on the Atlantic inflow to the Norwegian
Sea toward the Arctic. Geophysical Research Letters 30 (17), 1884,
doi:10.1029/2003GL017932.
Orvik, K. A., Skagseth, Ø., Mork, M., 2001. Atlantic inflow to the Nordic
Seas: current structure and volume fluxes from moored current meters,
VM-ADCP and SeaSoar-CTD observations, 1995-1999. Deep Sea Research Part I 48 (4), 937–957, doi:10.1016/S0967-0637(00)00038-8.
Skagseth, Ø., 2004. Monthly to annual variability of the Norwegian Atlantic Slope Current: Connection between the northern North Atlantic
and the Norwegian Sea. Deep-Sea Research Part I 51 (3), 349–366,
doi:10.1016/j.dsr.2003.10.014.
Skagseth, Ø., Orvik, K. A., Furevik, T., 2004. Coherent variability of the
Norwegian Atlantic Slope Current derived from TOPEX/ERS altimeter
data. Geophysical Research Letters 31, doi:10.1029/2004GL020057.
Swift, J. H., 1986. The Arctic Waters. In: Hurdle, B. G. (Ed.), The Nordic
Seas. Springer-Verlag, pp. 129–153.
Walin, G., 1982. On the relation between sea surface heat flow and thermal
circulation in the ocean. Tellus 34 (2), 187–195.
Worthington, L. V., 1970. The Norwegian Sea as a Mediterranean basin.
Deep-Sea Research 17, 77–84.
113
Pa p e r I V
Inter-annual variability of
the along-isobath flow in
the Norwegian Sea
R e z wa n M o h a m m a d
Stockholm University, Department of Meteorology,
DM-report 94, 2005
Abstract
The present investigation is focused on barotropic wind-driven circulation
along closed isobaths on a f -plane. A relationship has been derived between the surface wind stress and the along-isobath flow, the latter which
can also be estimated using satellite-altimetric methods. The re-circulation
gyre in the central Norwegian Sea proved amenable to this mode of analysis, since the isobath-averaged flow estimates based on sea-level anomalies
and wind data were compared and found to be essentially the same, indicating that this re-circulation predominantly is locally forced. Additionally
the along-isobath flow associated with the Norwegian Atlantic Slope Current (NwASC), which originates in the Atlantic proper, was also estimated
using satellite-altimetric data. These NwASC results were compared with
the corresponding closed-isobath circulation in the central Norwegian Sea,
whereby it was found that there were periods when the variabilities of the
two flows appeared to be decoupled. It is argued that this may be caused
by the wind forcing of the NwASC being exerted along the full stretch of
the 500-m isobath originating in the Atlantic proper, whereas the central
Norwegian Sea re-circulation gyre is more-or-less locally forced. This inference is to some extent justified on the basis of a comparison between the
NwASC results, the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) index, and the wind
stress integrated along the 500-m isobath from 50◦ N to 67◦ N.
117
Paper IV
1
Introduction
The present study is focused on the low-frequency variability of the circulation in the Nordic Seas. Here the term low-frequency is used to denote
time-scales ranging from a few months up to several years. The primary
concern of the investigation is with the Nordic-Seas variability associated
with changes of the large-scale wind-stress forcing.
Already Helland-Hansen and Nansen (1909) recognized that the timemean circulation in the Nordic Seas is strongly guided by the basin topography. This observed tendency of the near-surface flow to follow the
isobaths throughout the Nordic Seas and the Arctic Ocean has recently
been examined theoretically by Nøst and Isachsen (2003). For sufficiently
low frequencies, also the time-dependent component of the flow tends to be
aligned with the depth contours (Isachsen et al., 2003; Mohammad et al.,
2005). When considering the response of the flow to low-frequency variations of the wind stress acting on the Nordic Seas, it is conceptually advantageous to distinguish between regions having closed isobaths1 and those
where the isobaths extend into the Arctic basin and/or over the GreenlandScotland Ridge into the North Atlantic proper. In more-or-less limited
regions with closed depth contours, there is a relatively straightforward relationship between the low-frequency flow and the wind stress. As has been
demonstrated by Isachsen et al. (2003); Nøst and Isachsen (2003) as well
as Nilsson et al. (2005), to lowest order of approximation the flow follows
the isobaths and its strength is controlled by the wind stress integrated
around the closed isobaths. On closed isobaths, the low-frequency flow is
thus related to the wind forcing in a non-local fashion. However, the area
where the wind forcing affects the flow is limited and well defined.
The nexus between the flow along isobaths extending into the Atlantic
and the wind forcing appears to be more complex. A primary reason is that
the flow along such isobaths is affected by the wind forcing over a much
larger and less well-defined region. The study due to Orvik and Skagseth
(2003a) suggests that the flow in the Norwegian Atlantic Slope Current
(NwASC) across the Svinøy section may be significantly correlated with
the wind forcing that acted on the North Atlantic some 15 months earlier.
Specifically, these authors identified a connection between the strength of
the NwASC and the curl of the wind stress integrated across the Atlantic
Basin at 55◦ N.
The discussion above suggests that the NwASC (found on isobaths com1 More
generally closed H/f contours, where H is the depth and f the Coriolis pa-
rameter.
118
2 Theoretical background
municating with the Atlantic) and the re-circulating gyres in the Nordic
Seas (encountered in regions of closed isobaths) are forced from different
geographical regions and by possibly different mechanisms. It should be
pointed out that “closed” and “open” isobaths converge in a narrow zone
along the Norwegian coast. In this region it is conceivable that the flow
along deeper isobaths to some extent evolves independently from the flow
associated with the more shoreward “open” isobaths. One question to be
pursued in this study is thus to what degree the low-frequency variabilities
of the flow associated with the closed gyres and along the open isobaths in
the Nordic Seas are decoupled.
In next section the theoretical background to the considerations above
will be outlined. Hereafter the relationship between the large-scale wind
forcing and the flow on the isobaths that close themselves around the Norwegian Sea and the Lofoten Basin will be analyzed on the basis of satellitealtimetric data and observed wind stress. A detailed analysis of conditions
along the Svinøy section extending north-westwards from the Norwegian
coast is also carried out, whereafter the study is concluded by an overview
and a discussion.
2
Theoretical background
In what follows, use will be made of some ideas originally presented by
Walin (1972), who demonstrated that on closed isobaths, the low-frequency
wind forcing primarily generates a barotropic flow along the depth contours.
Recently, these results have been generalized and applied in studies by
Isachsen et al. (2003), Nøst and Isachsen (2003) as well as Nilsson et al.
(2005). An outline of the mathematical derivation is given in an appendix
to the present study. Here, the starting point of the physical considerations
is volume continuity for a region (say A) encircled by a closed curve C, on
which H/f (i.e. the depth divided by the Coriolis parameter) is constant.
It is further assumed that the flow is in hydrostatic balance and governed
by linear dynamics. Under these assumptions, the volume budget of A is
given by (see the appendix)
∂
∂t
ZZ
η dA =
A
∂
∂t
I
C
U
· ds +
f
I
C
1
∇Q
· ds −
f
ρ0
I
(τw /f − τb /f ) · ds. (1)
C
Here η is the free surface, U the vertically-integrated flow, τw and τb the
surface and the bottom stress, respectively, ds the length element along C,
119
Paper IV
and Q the potential energy anomaly, the latter defined as
Z 0
zq dz,
Q(x, y, t) = −g
(2)
−H
where g is the acceleration of gravity and q the buoyancy anomaly. Eq. (1)
shows that the volume inside the curve C can be changed by (i) acceleration
of the depth-integrated flow around the curve, (ii) baroclinic north–south
flow2 , (iii) Ekman boundary-layer transports across C. In view of the forthcoming analysis of conditions in the Nordic Seas, eq. (1) is now simplified
by making the following assumptions:
1. The variation of f is neglected. This is expected to be a reasonable
approximation as the present focus is on an area of limited geographical extent, where furthermore the variations of H dominate the H/f
geometry.
2. It is assumed that
∂
∂t
ZZ
η dA ≈ 0.
A
The underlying motivation is that when the barotropic Rossby radius
is significantly larger than the length-scale characterizing the flow, the
rate of change of the depth-integrated circulation generally dominates
over the rate of change of the volume (Gill, 1982). In the present case,
this assumption was corroborated by an analysis based on the seasurface height data retrieved from satellite altimetry, showing that
the rate of change of circulation is typically two orders of magnitude
greater the rate of change of volume.
3. The variability of the depth-integrated flow is assumed to have a
barotropic character, i.e. the flow is taken to be depth-independent.
Walin (1972) showed that the flow response to low-frequency wind
forcing should be barotropic outside the costal zone. A caveat is
necessary, however: Walin considered the flow response in a basin
where the buoyancy field was taken to be horizontally uniform. In
the Nordic Seas, on the other hand, strong lateral buoyancy gradients
are encountered.
By making use of these assumptions, eq. (1) can be simplified as
I
I
∂
1
H
u · ds =
(τw − τb ) · ds.
∂t C
ρ0 C
2 This
term is related to divergence/convergence induced by the variation of f .
120
(3)
2 Theoretical background
Next assume that the flow is geostrophic to lowest order, i.e.
u=
g
k × ∇η,
f
(4)
where k is the vertical unit vector. The free-surface height is decomposed
as
η(x, y, t) = η(H, t) + η 0 (x, y, t),
where η 0 is the free-surface height anomaly on the closed isobath C(H) and
η is the mean free-surface height defined as
I
1
η(H, t) =
η(x, y, t) ds.
(5)
L C
It is now assumed that the flow is aligned with the topography, i.e. |η| |η 0 |, implying that
g ∂η
u≈
k × ∇H.
(6)
f ∂H
Using this result, it is found that
I
I
g ∂η
|∇H| ds.
u · ds = −
f ∂H C
C
A mean isobath-following velocity is now defined as
I
g
∂η
V(H, t) = −
|∇H| ds,
f L(H) ∂H C
(7)
(8)
where L(H) is the circumference length of C(H).
To apply eq. (3), the bottom stress has to be specified. Here, the following linear relationship is used:
τb = ρ0 u∗ u,
(9)
where u∗ is a friction velocity. Hereafter eq. (3) can be formulated as
ZZ
∂V
1
curl τw dA,
(10)
+ rV =
∂t
ρ0 HL A
where r = u∗ /H.
For notational convenience, when altimetric data is used to estimate
the isobath-following velocity defined by eq. (8) it will be denoted V SLA .
Furthermore, when wind-stress data are employed to solve eq. (10) the
result will be denoted V w .
121
Paper IV
3
Data-set description
The present study, encompassing the years 1992–2004, makes use of two
data sets from the Nordic Seas as well as from the north-eastern North
Atlantic; the sea-surface height and the sea-level wind. The former of these
data sets is based on satellite-altimetric measurements yielding anomalies
from an average state, whereas the latter consists of wind data from a
re-analysis based on an atmospheric weather forecast model.
The Sea-Level Anomalies (SLAs) were made available by the CLS Space
Oceanography Division. They are assimilated from various satellite missions and are provided on a spatial grid better than 0.34 × 0.22 degrees and
a temporal resolution of one week. Unfortunately there is a major data gap
between January 1994 and March 1995 north of 67.8◦ N as well as minor
lacunae scattered throughout the time series. Note that the effects of the
data gaps have been taken into consideration when statistical techniques
have been applied to this data set. It should also be pointed out that the
SLAs comprise seasonal steric effects. These have not been eliminated since
the spatial and temporal variations of the hydrography in the Nordic Seas
are insufficiently known to permit this.
The wind data have been retrieved from the ERA-40 re-analysis project
conducted by the European Center for Medium Range Weather Forecasts.
They are provided in gridded form (0.5 × 0.5 degrees) with a temporal
resolution of 6 hours.
Additionally a bathymetry with 50 × 50 resolution assembled by the US
National Geophysical Data Center has been used for the analyses.
4
Data analysis and results
The present investigation will focus on two regions: Pro primo, the part
of the Norwegian Sea enclosed by the 2500-m isobath around Norwegian
and Lofoten basins. Pro secundo, the region around the 500-m continentalslope isobath which starts at 67◦ N, transgresses the Svinøy section, and
ends south-west of Ireland at 50◦ N. Both isobaths are shown in Fig. 1.
4.1
The Norwegian and Lofoten basins
Examining the spatial structure of the sea-surface height anomalies it was
found (Mohammad et al., 2005) that these are strongly linked to the bathymetry. Conservation of potential vorticity constrains the flow to follow the
contours of constant depth, the variation of f being negligible in the Nordic
122
4 Data analysis and results
70
°N
The 2500-m and 500-m isobaths
65
°N
60°
N
55°
N
50°N
PSfrag replacements
20°W
10°W
0°
10°E
20°E
F i g u r e 1: Map of the north-eastern Atlantic Ocean showing the closed 2500-m
isobath encompassing the Norwegian and Lofoten basins as well as the 500-m
isobath following the continental slope. The classical Svinøy section is indicated
by a gray line.
Seas region. This state of affairs suggests that the theoretical framework
presented in section 2 can be used to calculate the SLA distribution once the
wind field is known. The present investigation has its focus on large-scale
properties, leading us to disregard the small-scale variations associated with
e.g. baroclinic instability (cf. Mysak and Schott, 1977). Therefore an attempt will here be made to use the isobath-following averaging method
summarized by eq. (8) for isolating the large-scale variability from the raw
SLA time series.
The forthcoming analysis will first deal with conditions along various
depth contours enclosing the Lofoten and/or Norwegian basins. The locations of these isobaths were determined by applying horizontal interpolation
to the 50 × 50 gridded bathymetry, and SLA and wind data from as close
as possible to these contours were used.
The two upper panels of Fig. 2 show the degree of spatial variation of
the sea-surface height anomalies on two different closed isobaths (2600 m
and 3100 m) in the Nordic Seas. The SLA time series pertaining to individual points on the isobaths show a significant degree of scatter around the
isobath average η. The variation of SLA between the individual points is
large along the isobath girdling the Lofoten and Norwegian basins (cf. the
123
Paper IV
Isobath around the Lofoten and Norwegian basins
20
0
−20
Isobath around the Norwegian basin
20
0
−20
Isobath means
20
PSfrag replacements
0
−20
1994
1996
1998
2000
2002
2004
Time
F i g u r e 2: The SLA at each point along a closed isobath (gray) and the mean
SLA of all points on the isobath (black) as functions of time. The upper panel
pertains to the 2600-m isobath around both the Lofoten and Norwegian basins,
the middle panel shows the results for the 3100-m isobath around the Lofoten
basin. The bottom panel represents the isobath-averaged SLA for seven different
closed isobaths in the Lofoten and Norwegian basins. The SLA is given in cm
and the time in years.
124
4 Data analysis and results
Auto-correlation
1
0.5
PSfrag replacements
0
0
1
2
3
Time lag
F i g u r e 3: The normalized auto-correlations for V SLA (black solid line) and
∂η
the integrated wind stress curl in the Norwegian Sea (gray line). ∂H
evaluated
using the 2500 and 3000-m isobaths. Both data sets have been detrended before
calculating the auto-correlations. Additionally an exponential decay function
with an e-folding time of 50 days is included in the diagram as a heavy dashed
line. The time lag is given in years.
top panel in Fig. 2) as well as on the one encompassing only the Norwegian basin (cf. the middle panel in Fig. 2). Similar analyses undertaken for
other closed isobaths in the Lofoten and/or Norwegian basins yielded the
same results. In order to focus on large-scale properties it proved convenient to study the along-isobath SLA averages η (cf. the bottom panel of
Fig. 2) which do not vary spatially to the same degree as do the results from
individual contour points. Thus it has been concluded that the isobathaveraging method is capable of isolating a large-scale coherent signal from
the SLA data.
In what follows focus will mainly be on the 2500-m isobath enclosing
the Lofoten as well as the Norwegian basins. The averaged along-isobath
velocity anomalies V calculated from the SLA gradient and from the wind
field using eq. (8) and eq. (10) will be compared. To do this it is, however, necessary to specify the damping parameter r, the choice of which is
not trivial. To assess the magnitude of this quantity, the inherent damping time of the flow is estimated from a statistical analysis of the SLA
data. Fig. 3 thus shows the normalized auto-correlation for the detrended
V SLA time series and also an exponential decay function with an e-folding
time of 50 days. As seen there is good agreement for lags below three
months between the auto-correlation of the SLA data and the decay function, which indicates that 50 days is a realistic damping time-scale (in turn
yielding r ≈ 1/50 days−1 ). Since the diagram additionally includes the
auto-correlation of the surface wind stress, it can be recognized that the
“memory” of the wind field is rather short compared to that of the seasurface height field, this since the characteristic meteorological damping
time-scale is on the order of one day. Note, furthermore, that in these
125
Paper IV
Auto-correlation, r −1 = 10 days
1
0.5
0
0
1
2
3
Auto-correlation, r −1 = 50 days
1
0.5
0
0
1
2
3
Auto-correlation, r −1 = 1000 days
PSfrag replacements 1
0.5
0
0
1
2
3
Time lag
F i g u r e 4: Normalized auto-correlations for V SLA (black) and V w (gray) in
the Norwegian Sea. The data have been detrended before calculating the autocorrelations. The upper, middle and lower panels show V w as the solution of
eq. (10) for r −1 = 10, 50, and 1000 days, respectively. The time lag is given in
years.
latter auto-correlation results, the atmospheric seasonal cycle is submerged
by high-frequency noise. It, however, becomes manifest when this autocorrelation instead is calculated from the low-passed time series, this since
the energy of the seasonal cycle, although being of narrow-band character, is one order of magnitude larger then the rest of the frequency-domain
power spectrum.
If a linear differential equation of type (10) is solved with white-noise
forcing, the auto-correlation of the solution proves to be an exponential
function of the form e−rt . Since the wind data have white-noise characteristics, V w is expected to decay exponentially with an e-folding time r.
Comparing (cf. Fig. 4) the auto-correlation of V SLA with that of V w obtained from eq. (10) for different values of r, the optimal damping time-scale
is found to be on the order of 50 days. It may be noted that this choice of
r is consonant with the estimated linear bottom drag coefficient employed
by Isachsen et al. (2003).
At this stage the results estimated from eqs. (8) and (eq. 10) can be
compared. Here this is done on the 2500-m isobath girdling the Lofoten
126
4 Data analysis and results
V SLA and V w for the Norwegian Sea
0.1
0.05
0
0
replacements
−0.1
−0.05
1993
1994
1995
1996
1997
1998
1999
2000
2001
2002
Time
F i g u r e 5: Isobath-averaged velocities V SLA (black) and V w (gray) in the Norwegian Sea. The velocities are in m/s and calculated using SLA data from the
2500- and 3000-m isobaths (cf. eq. 8) and wind data (cf. eq. 10), respectively, taking r−1 to be 50 days. The scales of V SLA and V w are on the left- and right-hand
vertical axes, respectively. The time is given in years.
∂η
and Norwegian basins. When evaluating eq. (8), ∂H
is discretized using
the difference between the isobath-averaged SLAs on the isobaths of 2500and 3000-m divided by 500 m. (Although focus is on conditions along the
2500-m isobath, this choice of interval for estimating the derivative was
dictated by the insufficient resolution of the SLA data sets.) This velocity
is to be compared to the one obtained from the linear differential equation
(10) using the wind data. When solving eq. (10), its right-hand member is
evaluated by integrating the wind-stress anomalies over the area confined
within the 2500-m isobath and furthermore the damping parameter r is
taken to be 1/50 days−1 .
Fig. 5 shows the resulting isobath-following means of the velocity anomalies V SLA and V w . Although the low-frequency variations of the two time
series are seen to be essentially the same, the amplitudes differ by factor
of two. This discrepancy can have a number of causes, the most likely
ones being steric and baroclinic effects. Other possible reasons are the es∂η
timate of r, the discretization of ∂H
, and the grid resolution of the SLA
and wind fields (particularly in regions with steep bathymetry). It may
furthermore be noted that the variations of the SLA-based time series are
more pronounced than those of the wind-based series, since applying the
linear differential equation (10) curtails the high frequencies inherent in the
time series of the integrated wind stress.
The overall conclusion to be drawn from these analyses is, nevertheless,
that the Norwegian-Sea re-circulation gyre is predominantly forced by local
wind stress.
127
Paper IV
Norwegian Sea and Svinøy ∆SLA, 50-day filter
6
3
0
−3
Norwegian Sea and Svinøy ∆SLA, 1-year smoothing
PSfrag replacements
2
0
−2
1994
1996
1998
2000
2002
2004
Time
F i g u r e 6: Isobath-averaged SLA difference for the Svinøy transect (black) and
in the central Norwegian Sea (gray). For the Svinøy transect the isobath-averages
along the 500- and 1000-m isobaths between 61◦ N and 67◦ N have been used,
whereas the results for the central Norwegian Sea are based on the closed 2500and 3000-m isobaths. In the upper panel the data have been low-passed using
a Butterworth filter with a 50-day cut-off, whereas in the lower panel 1-year
running means have been applied. The SLA differences are given in cm and the
time in years.
4.2
The Svinøy section
After having studied the region with closed depth contours in the central parts of the Norwegian Sea, focus will now be on the Svinøy section
(cf. Fig. 1) where the Norwegian Atlantic Slope Current (NwASC) is located over the depth interval 300–800 m (Skagseth, 2004), i.e. well separated from the previously discussed central circulation gyre. It should
be noted that here the isobaths shallower than ∼700 m extend into the
Atlantic proper via the Faroe-Shetland channel. The NwASC is part of
an almost-barotropic shelf-edge current system extending from the IrishScottish shelf to the Fram Strait. Observations show that the low-frequency
temporal variations of this slope current tend to be coherent along its entire stretch (Skagseth et al., 2004). Furthermore, it can be noted that the
low-frequent variability of NwASC in the Svinøy section exhibits a spatial
coherence in the cross-stream direction (Orvik and Skagseth, 2003b).
Based on the observational characteristics presented above, it is anticipated that the NwASC should to some extent be influenced by remote
conditions in the Atlantic. To investigate this matter, the variability of
the NwASC will first be compared to that of the interior re-circulation
in the Norwegian Sea. For this purpose an altimetry-based proxy of the
NwASC is constructed. Specifically, the SLA difference between the 500128
4 Data analysis and results
Svinøy-section ∆SLA and NAO
2
PSfrag replacements
0
−2
1994
1996
1998
2000
2002
2004
Time
F i g u r e 7: Isobath-averaged SLA difference for the Svinøy transect (black) and
the NAO index (gray). The Svinøy-transect SLA difference was calculated as in
Fig. 6. Both time series normalized with their standard deviations and smoothed
with 1-year running means. The time is given in years.
and 1000-m isobaths is used to characterize the flow strength. Note that
to eliminate the small-scale high-frequency variability, along-isobath averaging has been undertaken over a distance extending some 500 km on each
side of the Svinøy section. The instrumentality of this proxy was estimated
by comparing with the direct current measurements in the Svinøy section
reported by Orvik and Skagseth (2003a). The two data sets were found
to be in general correspondence, although the altimetric proxy, due to the
limited spatial resolution, fails to reproduce the full details of the currentmeter records, e.g. the pronounced transport peak registered in early 2002.
Fig. 6 thus shows low-passed time series of the Norwegian-Sea and the
Svinøy-transect SLA differences. From this graph it is seen that there are
periods when the flow on the closed isobaths co-varies with the flow on the
isobaths communicating with the Atlantic. However, and perhaps more
significantly, there are also instances when the flow variabilities appear to
be decoupled. This behavior could indicate changes of the circulation in
the Norwegian Sea. Shifts of this type are, most likely, associated with
changes of the large-scale wind forcing.
To further pursue these notions, the extent to which the altimetric proxy
for the NwASC co-varies with the large-scale wind forcing affecting the
North Atlantic is investigated. Focus is initially on the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) index, reflecting the basin-scale atmospheric flow (Hurrell,
1995). As shown in Fig. 7, there is fair degree of correspondence between
the time evolution of the altimetric NwASC proxy and the NAO index,
particularly the latter part of the period under consideration. (Similar
conclusions have previously been drawn by Skagseth et al. (2004) on the
basis of a comparison between altimetric PCs and surface-pressure EOFs.)
This indicates that the NwASC is subjected to non-local influences from the
atmospheric conditions prevailing over the northern North Atlantic Ocean.
129
Paper IV
Svinøy-section ∆SLA and integrated wind stress
2
PSfrag replacements
0
−2
1994
1996
1998
2000
2002
Time
F i g u r e 8: Isobath-averaged SLA difference for the Svinøy transect (black) and
the integrated wind stress (gray) along the 500-m isobath from 50◦ N (southwest off Ireland) to 67◦ N (north-west off the Svinøy transect). The Svinøy SLA
difference is calculated as in Fig. 6. Both data sets are normalized with their
standard deviations and smoothed with 1-year running means. The time is given
in years.
Next, some tentative ideas having their roots in the theoretical framework pertaining to along-isobath flow (cf. section 2) will be examined, this
as an attempt to relate the NwASC variability to the characteristics of the
wind forcing. It must be emphasized that closed isobaths are at the heart of
the analytical model derived in section 2. However, it can be expected that
also on open isobaths, there will be some degree of correspondence between
the flow and the along-isobath wind stress. The underlying physics are that
steep topography forces the flow to be nearly parallel with the isobaths. As
a consequence, the along-isobath momentum equation is anticipated to entail an approximate balance between the wind- and bottom-stress, at least
when averaged along the continental slope. It should further be noted
that it is the wind stress acting upstream (defined in a topographic-wave
propagation sense) that is of relevance here. To test these qualitative considerations, a time series is constructed from the wind stress, integrated
along the 500-m isobath from 50◦ N to 67◦ N, viz. from south of the British
Isles to the Svinøy section. This is compared to the altimetric proxy for
the NwASC in Fig. 8, where 1-year running means have been applied to
the data sets. There is a fair degree of agreement between the two time
series, where it may be noted that during the early part of the observational
period, the correspondence is better than that between the NwASC proxy
and the NAO in Fig. 7.
It may finally be remarked that Orvik and Skagseth (2003a) found a
significant degree of lagged coherence between current-meter records of the
NwASC and the zonally integrated wind stress curl over the North Atlantic
at 55◦ N. Although Skagseth et al. (2004) concluded that the altimetric data
do not exhibit this coherence (presumably due to baroclinic effects and the
130
5 Discussion
Norwegian Sea and Svinøy integrated wind stress
2
PSfrag replacements
0
−2
1994
1996
1998
2000
2002
Time
F i g u r e 9: Integrated wind stress along the eastern boundary (black) and in the
central Norwegian Sea (gray). The data sets are normalized with their standard
deviations and 1-year running means have been applied. The time is given in
years.
limited resolution of the altimetric data), the present results indicate that
an alternative representation of the more-or-less remotely acting wind stress
may serve to cast some doubts on this inference.
5
Discussion
The present study has examined low-frequency flow variability in the Norwegian Sea on the basis of satellite altimetry. To facilitate a physical interpretation of the altimetry data, a linear model has been employed to
estimate the wind-forced variability on closed isobaths in the central Norwegian Sea. Moreover, the flow features along these closed isobaths have
been compared to those characterizing the NwASC in the Svinøy section. It
deserves to be re-iterated that the NwASC is located over isobaths that are
open, viz. extend into the Atlantic proper. While there exists a relatively
straightforward theory for wind-forced flows on closed isobaths, no such
relation is available for flows on open isobaths, where a generalized Sverdrup relation determines the along-isobath pressure variations (Skagseth,
2004). It is, however, difficult to derive an appropriate upstream boundary
condition corresponding to the eastern boundary condition in Sverdrup’s
classical analysis. Nevertheless, elementary dynamical considerations suggest that the strength of NwASC should be influenced in a non-local fashion
by the wind stress acting along the continental slope in the north-eastern
Atlantic.
Thus, the wind-driven variability of the NwASC and the re-circulating
gyre in the Norwegian Sea are expected to be forced from different geographical regions. The question then is whether the present analysis serves
to corroborate this view. To begin with, the altimetric data demonstrate
131
Paper IV
that the flow on the closed isobaths to some extent is decoupled from that
on the open isobaths extending into the Atlantic. However, it is by no
means obvious that this decoupling is attributable to a difference of the
underlying wind-forcing patterns. To further pursue this question it is relevant to examine Fig. 9, showing the time evolution of the abovementioned
eastern-boundary wind stress and the central Norwegian Sea wind-stress
curl. As can be seen, there are instances when even the signs of these
wind-stress indices differ. Accordingly, the atmospheric circulation over
the central Norwegian Sea is to some extent a regional phenomenon, which
is not entirely governed by the large-scale conditions prevailing over the
North Atlantic. Overall, this state of affairs appears to support the view
that the partial decoupling of the NwASC and the re-circulation gyre is a
manifestation of a difference between the forcing wind-stress fields. However, it should be noted that there seems to be no straightforward relation
between the decoupling of these wind stresses and the decoupling of the
two flow branches.
It must be underlined that although the NwASC is predominantly a
barotropic phenomenon, it is also affected by baroclinic features such as
the stratification in the north-eastern North Atlantic (Orvik and Skagseth,
2003a; Nilsson et al., 2005). It is expected that variations of the wind forcing give rise to a nearly instantaneous barotropic response of the NwASC,
whereas the impact of baroclinic changes may demonstrate a considerable
time-lag, e.g. reflecting advection of buoyancy anomalies along the continental slope (Furevik, 2001). Thus it is not only disjunct wind-stress forcing
which may cause the NwASC and the re-circulating gyre to evolve in an
independent manner.
One may speculate that alterations of the hydrographic conditions along
the continental slope contribute to the partial decoupling of the times series displayed in Fig. 8: Initially, the integrated eastern-boundary wind
stress and the NwASC proxy evolve in concert, while the two time series
are less coherent towards the end of observational period. If the easternboundary wind stress would be the main agent forcing the NwASC, one
anticipates that the good correlation between the two time series would
persist throughout the entire period. Consequently, this behavior may reflect interannual variability of the hydrography in the north-eastern North
Atlantic. It is interesting to note that the correlation between the NAO
index and the NwASC proxy tended to increase after 1998, cf. Fig. 7. This
state of affairs furthermore underscores that the relation between the atmospheric forcing and the flow along the open isobaths in the Nordic Seas
is far from straightforward.
132
Appendix
Keeping in this caveat in mind, it can nevertheless be concluded that
the present results, although not immediately useful for predictive purposes, show that fundamental dynamical questions can be addressed using
altimetric techniques.
Acknowledgments
The work herein reported was undertaken on the basis of a grant from the
Swedish National Space Board. The altimeter products were made available
by the CLS Space Oceanography Division as part of the Environment and
Climate EU ENACT project (EVK2-CT2001-00117) and with support from
CNES. I would also like to thank to Peter Sigray for valuable discussions
and comments concerning signal processing.
Appendix
Here an outline of the derivation of the theoretical results presented in
section 2 is provided. Essentially, the results due to Nilsson et al. (2005)
are generalized by allowing for time-dependent flow and a variable Coriolis
parameter. The linear dynamics of a rotating stratified fluid in the hydrostatic limit are considered. It is assumed that viscous effects are confined to
thin Ekman boundary layers adjacent to the bottom and the free surface.
The vertically integrated continuity equation can be written as
∂η
= −∇ · U − ∇ · (mw + mb ),
∂t
(11)
where η is the free surface, U the vertically-integrated flow and mw and
mb are the boundary layer transports in the top and the bottom Ekman
layers, respectively. Note that
U=
Z
0
u dz,
−H
where u = (u, v) is the horizontal velocity component. The Ekman boundary layer transports are related to the surface wind stress τw and the bottom stress τb according to mw = −k × τw /(ρr f ), mb = k × τb /(ρr f ) (e.g.
Pedlosky, 1987).
The hydrostatic equation is given by
∂p
= −gρr (1 − q),
∂z
133
(12)
Paper IV
where g is the acceleration of gravity, ρr the deep water density, and q the
density anomaly. By integrating the hydrostatic equation upwards from
the bottom, one obtains (Nilsson et al., 2005)
Z z
q dz + p0 (x, y, t) − gρr z.
(13)
p(x, y, z, t) = gρr
−H
Here, H(x, y) is the basin depth and p0 is a barotropic pressure anomaly,
defined as p0 (x, y) = pb (x, y) − gρr H, where pb is the bottom pressure.
The linearized surface pressure is given by p(z = 0) = gρr η. Thus, eq. (13)
leads to the relation
Z 0
η(x, y, t) =
q dz + p0 /(gρr ),
(14)
−H
where the first term on the right-hand side is known as the steric height
anomaly and the second one is the contribution to sea-surface height due to
the barotropic pressure anomaly p0 . The notation η = ηq +η0 is introduced,
where
Z
0
ηq =
q dz, η0 = p0 /(gρr ).
(15)
−H
The vertically-integrated momentum equation, pertaining to the inviscid flow outside the Ekman layer, can be written as
∂U
+ f k × U = −ρr −1 H∇p0 − ∇Q,
∂t
(16)
where Q is the potential energy anomaly (see eq. 2). By dividing eq. (16)
with f and integrating around a closed curve C, on which H/f is constant,
one obtains
I
I
I
∂
U
∇Q
· ds +
U · n ds = −
· ds.
(17)
∂t C f
C
C f
Combining this result with the continuity equation yields
ZZ
I
I
I
∂
U
∂
∇Q
η dA =
· ds +
· ds − (mw + mb ) · nds
∂t
∂t C f
A
C f
C
(18)
By making use of the three main approximations discussed in section 2,
straightforward calculations yield
I
ZZ
I
1
∂
ub · ds =
curl τw dA,
U · ds + u∗
∂t C
ρr
C
A
134
Appendix
where ub is the bottom velocity. Note that the Stokes theorem has been
used here and that the boundary-layer transports mw and mb have been
been rewritten in terms of the stresses. As a next step, it is assumed that
the flow to leading order is in geostrophic balance. By using eq. (13), one
obtains
Z z
g
u = k × ∇h
q dz + u0 ,
(19)
f
−H
where
u0 =
1
k × ∇p0 .
f ρr
By integrating eq. (19) vertically over the entire water column, one obtains
U=
1
k × ∇Q + Hu0 .
f
(20)
If the bottom buoyancy is essentially constant along the isobaths (a reasonable assumption for the closed isobaths in the Norwegian Sea), then
ub ≈ u0 (Nilsson et al., 2005). Using this and the expression for the
geostrophic flow, the integral relation can be written as
I
I
∂
u0 · ds + r
u0 · ds = F
(21)
∂t C
C
where
1 ∂
F =−
f H ∂t
I
1
n · ∇Q ds +
Hρr
C
ZZ
curl τw dA.
A
To judge the relative importance of the two terms in the forcing function F ,
the estimate of the seasonal variation of Q/f in the Nordic Seas presented
by Mohammad et al. (2005) is utilized. Their Fig. 5 shows that the seasonal
cycle of Q/f is on the order of 5 Sv. In combination with the integrated
wind-stress data, this yields the following rough estimate:
1 ∂
f ∂t
I
n · ∇Q ds ·
C
1
ρr
ZZ
curl τw dA
A
−1
≈ 0.1.
Provided that the approximations made here provide the leading-order
picture of the flow, eq. (10) can now be used to estimate the contribution
of the sea-surface height anomaly related to η0 . It must be recognized,
however, that the total sea-surface height anomaly is given as η = η0 + ηq .
135
Paper IV
Bibliography
Furevik, T., 2001. Annual and interannual variability of Atlantic water
temperatures in the Norwegian and Barents Seas: 1980–1996. Deep Sea
Research Part I 48 (2), 383–404, doi:10.1016/S0967-0637(00)00050-9.
Gill, A. E., 1982. Atmosphere-ocean dynamics. Vol. 30 of International
geophysics series. Academic Press, Inc.
Helland-Hansen, B., Nansen, F., 1909. The Norwegian Sea, its physical
oceanography. based on the Norwegian researches 1900–1904. Report on
Norwegian fishery and marine investigations 2 (2), 1–359.
Hurrell, J. W., 1995. Decadal trends in the North Atlantic Oscillation:
Regional temperatures and precipitation. Science 269, 676–679.
Isachsen, P. E., LaCasce, J. H., Mauritzen, C., Häkkinen, S., 2003. Winddriven variability of the large-scale recirculating flow in the Nordic Seas
and Arctic Ocean. Journal of Physical Oceanography 33 (12), 2534–2550,
doi:10.1175/1520-0485(2003)033<2534:WVOTLR>2.0.CO;2.
Mohammad, R., Nilsson, J., Lundberg, P., 2005. An altimetric study of the
nordic-sea region seasonal cycle, submitted to Deep Sea Research Part I.
Mysak, L. A., Schott, F., 1977. Evidence for baroclinic instability of the
norwegian current. Journal of Geophysical Research 82 (C15), 2087–2095.
Nilsson, J., Broström, G., Walin, G., 2005. Steady f-plane circulation arising from a prescribed buoyancy distribution in basins with sloping boundaries; or the role of bottom friction for creating a thermohaline circulation, submitted to Journal of Marine Research.
Nøst, O., Isachsen, P., 2003. The large-scale time-mean ocean circulation in the Nordic Seas and Arctic Ocean estimated from
simplified dynamics. Journal of Marine Research 61 (2), 175–210,
doi:10.1357/002224003322005069.
Orvik, K. A., Skagseth, Ø., 2003a. The impact of the wind stress
curl in the North Atlantic on the Atlantic inflow to the Norwegian
Sea toward the Arctic. Geophysical Research Letters 30 (17), 1884,
doi:10.1029/2003GL017932.
Orvik, K. A., Skagseth, Ø., 2003b. Monitoring the Norwegian Atlantic
Slope Current using a single moored current meter. Continental Shelf
Research 23 (2), 159–176, doi:10.1016/S0278-4343(02)00172-3.
136
Bibliography
Pedlosky, J., 1987. Geophysical Fluid Dynamics, 2nd Edition. SpringerVerlag.
Skagseth, Ø., 2004. Monthly to annual variability of the Norwegian Atlantic Slope Current: Connection between the northern North Atlantic
and the Norwegian Sea. Deep-Sea Research Part I 51 (3), 349–366,
doi:10.1016/j.dsr.2003.10.014.
Skagseth, Ø., Orvik, K. A., Furevik, T., 2004. Coherent variability of the
Norwegian Atlantic Slope Current derived from TOPEX/ERS altimeter
data. Geophysical Research Letters 31, doi:10.1029/2004GL020057.
Walin, G., 1972. On the hydrographic response to transient meteorological
disturbances. Tellus 24, 169–186.
137
Was this manual useful for you? yes no
Thank you for your participation!

* Your assessment is very important for improving the work of artificial intelligence, which forms the content of this project

Download PDF

advertisement