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A Theory of the Interhemispheric Meridional Overturning Circulation and Associated Stratification


Nikurashin, M and Vallis, G, A Theory of the Interhemispheric Meridional Overturning Circulation and Associated Stratification, Journal of Physical Oceanography, 42 pp. 1652-1667. ISSN 0022-3670 (2012) [Refereed Article]

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© Copyright 2012 AMS

DOI: doi:10.1175/JPO-D-11-0189.1


A quantitative theoretical model of the meridional overturning circulation and associated deep stratification in an interhemispheric, single-basin ocean with a circumpolar channel is presented. The theory includes the effects of wind, eddies, and diapycnal mixing, and predicts the deep stratification and overturning streamfunction in terms of the surface forcing and other parameters of the problem. It relies on a matching among three regions: the circumpolar channel at high southern latitudes, a region of isopycnal outcrop at high northern latitudes and the ocean basin between. The theory describes both the middepth and abyssal cells of a circulation representing North Atlantic Deep Water and Antarctic Bottom Water. It suggests that whereas the strength of the middepth overturning cell is primarily set by the wind stress in the circumpolar channel, mid depth stratification results from a balance between the wind-driven upwelling in the channel and deep water formation at high northern latitudes. Diapycnal mixing in the ocean interior can lead to warming and upwelling warm of deep waters. However, for parameters most representative of the present ocean mixing seems to play a minor role for the middepth cell. In contrast, the abyssal cell is intrinsically diabatic and controlled by a balance between the deep mixing-driven upwelling and the residual of the wind-driven and eddy-induced circulations in the Southern Ocean. The theory makes explicit predictions about how the stratification and overturning circulation vary with the wind strength, diapycnal diffusivity and mesoscale eddy effects. The predictions compare well with numerical results from a coarse-resolution general circulation model.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:meridional overturning circulation, deep stratification, conceptual theory, water masses, thermohaline circulation
Research Division:Earth Sciences
Research Group:Oceanography
Research Field:Physical oceanography
Objective Division:Environmental Policy, Climate Change and Natural Hazards
Objective Group:Understanding climate change
Objective Field:Climate variability (excl. social impacts)
UTAS Author:Nikurashin, M (Dr Maxim Nikurashin)
ID Code:80085
Year Published:2012
Web of Science® Times Cited:103
Deposited By:IMAS Research and Education Centre
Deposited On:2012-10-22
Last Modified:2013-03-07

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