Topological Constraints by the Greenland–Scotland Ridge on AMOC and Climate
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionJournal of Climate. 2020, 33 (13), 5393–5411. 10.1175/JCLI-D-19-0726.1
Changes in the geometry of ocean basins have been influential in driving climate change throughout Earth’s history. Here, we focus on the emergence of the Greenland–Scotland Ridge (GSR) and its influence on the ocean state, including large-scale circulation, heat transport, water mass properties, and global climate. Using a coupled atmosphere–ocean–sea ice model, we consider the impact of introducing the GSR in an idealized Earth-like geometry, comprising a narrow Atlantic-like basin and a wide Pacific-like basin. Without the GSR, deep-water formation occurs near the North Pole in the Atlantic basin, associated with a deep meridional overturning circulation (MOC). By introducing the GSR, the volume transport across the sill decreases by 64% and deep convection shifts south of the GSR, dramatically altering the structure of the high-latitude MOC. Due to compensation by the subpolar gyre, the northward ocean heat transport across the GSR only decreases by ~30%. As in the modern Atlantic Ocean, a bidirectional circulation regime is established with warm Atlantic water inflow and a cold dense overflow across the GSR. In sharp contrast to the large changes north of the GSR, the strength of the Atlantic MOC south of the GSR is unaffected. Outside the high latitudes of the Atlantic basin, the surface climate response is surprisingly small, suggesting that the GSR has little impact on global climate. Our results suggest that caution is required when interpreting paleoproxy and ocean records, which may record large local changes, as indicators of basin-scale changes in the overturning circulation and global climate.