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Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) in CMIP5 Models: RCP and Historical Simulations

  • Author(s): Cheng, Wei
  • Chiang, John CH
  • Zhang, Dongxiao
  • et al.

The Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) simulated by 10 models from phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) for the historical (1850–2005) and future climate is examined. The historical simulations of the AMOC mean state are more closely matched to observations than those of phase 3 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP3). Similarly to CMIP3, all models predict a weakening of the AMOC in the twenty-first century, though the degree of weakening varies considerably among the models. Under the representative concentration pathway 4.5 (RCP4.5) scenario, the weakening by year 2100 is 5%–40% of the individual model's historical mean state; under RCP8.5, the weakening increases to 15%–60% over the same period. RCP4.5 leads to the stabilization of the AMOC in the second half of the twenty-first century and a slower (then weakening rate) but steady recovery thereafter, while RCP8.5 gives rise to a continuous weakening of the AMOC throughout the twenty-first century. In the CMIP5 historical simulations, all but one model exhibit a weak downward trend [ranging from −0.1 to −1.8 Sverdrup (Sv) century−1; 1 Sv ≡ 106 m3 s−1] over the twentieth century. Additionally, the multimodel ensemble–mean AMOC exhibits multidecadal variability with a ~60-yr periodicity and a peak-to-peak amplitude of ~1 Sv; all individual models project consistently onto this multidecadal mode. This multidecadal variability is significantly correlated with similar variations in the net surface shortwave radiative flux in the North Atlantic and with surface freshwater flux variations in the subpolar latitudes. Potential drivers for the twentieth-century multimodel AMOC variability, including external climate forcing and the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), and the implication of these results on the North Atlantic SST variability are discussed.

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