Inferring the Pattern of the Oceanic Meridional Transport from the Air-Sea Density Flux
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An extension of Walin’s water mass transformation analysis is proposed that would make it possible to assess the strength of the adiabatic along-isopycnal component of the meridional overturning circulation (MOC). It is hypothesized that the substantial fraction of the adiabatic MOC component can be attributed to the difference in subduction rates at the northern and southern outcrops of each density layer—the “push–pull” mechanism. The GCM-generated data are examined and it is shown that the push–pull mode accounts for approximately two-thirds of the isopycnal water mass transport in the global budget and dominates the Atlantic transport. Much of the difference between the actual interhemispheric flux and the push–pull mode can be ascribed to the influence of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, characterized by the elevated (at least in the GCM) values of the diapycnal transport. When the diagnostic model is applied to observations, it is discovered that the reconstructed MOC is consistent, in terms of the magnitude and sense of overturning, with earlier observational and modeling studies. The findings support the notion that the dynamics of the meridional overturning are largely controlled by the adiabatic processes—time-mean and eddy-induced advection of buoyancy.
The article of record as published may be found at http://dx.doi.org/10.1175/2008JPO3748.1
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