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Publication Date
15 November 2022

The Role of Ocean Circulation in Southern Ocean Heat Uptake, Transport, and Storage Response to Quadrupled CO2



In response to quadrupled CO2, the Southern Ocean primarily uptakes excess heat around 60°S, which is then redistributed by the northward ocean heat transport (OHT) and mostly stored in the ocean or released back to the atmosphere around 45°S. However, the relative roles of mean ocean circulation and ocean circulation change in the uptake and redistribution of heat in the Southern Ocean remain controversial. Here, a set of climate model experiments embedded with a novel partial coupling technique are used to separate the roles of mean ocean circulation (passive component) and ocean circulation change (active component). For the ocean heat uptake (OHU) response, the mean ocean circulation and ocean circulation change are of equal importance. The OHT response south of 50°S is mainly determined by mean ocean circulation, while the ocean circulation change generates an anomalous southward OHT north of 50°S. A heat budget analysis finds that the divergence of passive OHT acts to balance the passive surface heat gain to the south of ∼50°S, while the convergence of active OHT acts to balance the active surface heat loss to the north of ∼50°S. Intriguingly, all the increase in ocean heat storage (OHS) is attributable to the passive component, with the ocean circulation change playing almost no role. In the Southern Ocean, both the active and the passive ocean heat transports are overcompensated by the reverse atmospheric heat transport via the Bjerknes compensation.

Li, Qiuxian, Yiyong Luo, Jian Lu, and Fukai Liu. 2022. “The Role Of Ocean Circulation In Southern Ocean Heat Uptake, Transport, And Storage Response To Quadrupled Co2”. Journal Of Climate 35 (22). American Meteorological Society: 7165-7182. doi:10.1175/jcli-d-22-0160.1.
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