North Atlantic Climate Response to Lake Agassiz Drainage at Coarse and Ocean Eddy-Permitting Resolutions

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The North Atlantic climate response to the catastrophic drainage of proglacial Lake Agassiz into the Labrador Sea is analyzed with coarse and ocean eddy-permitting versions of a global coupled climate model. The North Atlantic climate response is qualitatively consistent in that a large-scale cooling is simulated regardless of the model resolution or region of freshwater discharge. However, the magnitude and duration of the North Atlantic climate response is found to be sensitive to model resolution and the location of freshwater forcing. In particular, the long-term entrainment of freshwater along the boundary at higher resolution and its gradual, partially eddy-driven escape into the interior leads to low-salinity anomalies persisting in the subpolar Atlantic for decades longer. As a result, the maximum decline of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) and the ocean meridional heat transport (MHT) is amplified by about a factor of 2 at ocean eddy-permitting resolution, and the recovery is delayed relative to the coarse grid model. This, in turn, increases the long-term cooling in the high-resolution simulations. A decomposition of the MHT response reveals an increased role for transients and the horizontal mean component of MHT at higher resolution. With fixed wind stress curl, it is a stronger response of bottom pressure torque to the freshwater forcing at higher resolution that leads to a larger anomaly of the depth-integrated circulation.
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Spence, Paul
Saenko, O
Sijp, Willem
England, Matthew
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UNSW Faculty
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