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Impacts of Climate Change on Mode and Intermediate Water Masses in the Southern Ocean


Downes, S and Bindoff, NL and Rintoul, SR, Impacts of Climate Change on Mode and Intermediate Water Masses in the Southern Ocean, Journal of Climate, 22, (12) pp. 3289-3302. ISSN 0894-8755 (2009) [Refereed Article]

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© 2009 American Meteorological Society

DOI: doi:10.1175/2008JCLI2653.1


Changes in the temperature, salinity, and subduction of Subantarctic Mode Water (SAMW) and Antarctic Intermediate Water (AAIW) between the 1950s and 2090s are diagnosed using the CSIRO Mark version 3.5 (Mk3.5) climate system model Caps under a CO2 forcing that reaches 860 ppm by the year 2100. These Southern Ocean upper-limb water masses ventilate the ocean interior, and changes in their properties have been related to climate change in numerous studies. Over time, the authors follow the low potential vorticity and salinity minimum layers describing SAMW and AAIW and find that the water column in the 2090s shifts to lighter densities by approximately 0.2 kg m23. The model projects a reduction in the SAMW and AAIW annual mean subduction rates as a result of a combination of a shallower mixed layer, increased potential vorticity at the base of the mixed layer, and a net buoyancy gain. There is little change in the projected total volume of SAMW transported into the ocean interior via the subduction process; however, the authors find a significant decrease in the subduction of AAIW. The authors find overall that increases in the air–sea surface heat and freshwater fluxes mainly control the reduction in the mean loss of the SAMW and AAIW surface buoyancy flux when compared with the effect of changes supplied by Ekman transport because of increased zonal wind stress. In the A2 scenario, there are cooling and freshening on neutral density surfaces less than 27.3 kg m23 in response to the warming and freshening observed at the ocean’s surface. The model projects deepening of density surfaces due to southward shifts in the outcrop regions and the downward displacement of these surfaces north of 458S. The volume transport across 328S is predicted to decrease in all three basins, with southward transport of SAMW and AAIW decreasing by up to 1.2 and 2.0 Sv (1 Sv [ 106 m3 s21), respectively, in the Indian Ocean. These projected reductions in the subduction and transport of mode and intermediate water masses in the CSIRO Mk3.5 model could potentially decrease the absorption and storage of CO2 in the Southern Ocean.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Research Division:Earth Sciences
Research Group:Oceanography
Research Field:Biological oceanography
Objective Division:Environmental Policy, Climate Change and Natural Hazards
Objective Group:Adaptation to climate change
Objective Field:Climate change adaptation measures (excl. ecosystem)
UTAS Author:Downes, S (Dr Stephanie Downes)
UTAS Author:Bindoff, NL (Professor Nathan Bindoff)
UTAS Author:Rintoul, SR (Dr Steve Rintoul)
ID Code:62715
Year Published:2009
Web of Science® Times Cited:39
Deposited By:IASOS
Deposited On:2010-03-18
Last Modified:2010-05-07

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