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Publication Date
1 November 2023

Responses in the Subpolar North Atlantic in Two Climate Model Sensitivity Experiments with Increased Stratospheric Aerosols



The subpolar North Atlantic (SPNA) shows contrasting responses in two sensitivity experiments with increased stratospheric aerosols, offering insight into the physical processes that may impact the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) in a warmer climate. In one, the upper ocean becomes warm and salty, but in the other it becomes cold and fresh. The changes are accompanied by diverging AMOC responses. The first experiment strengthens the AMOC, opposing the weakening trend in the reference simulation. The second experiment shows a much smaller impact. Both simulations use the Community Earth System Model with the Whole Atmosphere Community Climate Model component (CESM-WACCM) but differ in model versions and stratospheric aerosol specifications. Despite both experiments using similar approaches to increase stratospheric aerosols to counteract the rising global temperature, the contrasting SPNA and AMOC responses indicate a considerable dependency on model physics, climate states, and model responses to forcings. This study focuses on examining the physical processes involved with the impact of stratospheric aerosols on the SPNA salinity changes and their potential connections with the AMOC and the Arctic. We find that in both cases, increased stratospheric aerosols act to enhance the SPNA upper-ocean salinity by reducing freshwater export from the Arctic, which is closely tied to the Arctic sea ice changes. The impact on AMOC is primarily through the thermal component of the surface buoyancy fluxes, with negligible contributions from the freshwater component. These experiments shed light on the physical processes that dictate the important connections between the SPNA, the Arctic, the AMOC, and their subsequent feedbacks on the climate system.

Li, Hui, Jadwiga H. Richter, Aixue Hu, Gerald A. Meehl, and Douglas MacMartin. 2023. “Responses In The Subpolar North Atlantic In Two Climate Model Sensitivity Experiments With Increased Stratospheric Aerosols”. Journal Of Climate 36 (21). American Meteorological Society: 7675-7688. doi:10.1175/jcli-d-23-0225.1.
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