Subpolar North Atlantic western boundary density anomalies and the Meridional Overturning Circulation

Feili Li, M. Susan Lozier, Sheldon Bacon, Stuart Cunningham, M. Femke de Jong, Brad deYoung, Neil Fraser, Nora Fried, Guoqi Han, N. Penny Holliday, James Holte, Loïc Houpert, Mark Inall, William Johns, Samuel Jones, Clare Louise Johnson, Johannes Karstensen, Isabela A. Le Bras, Pascale Lherminier, X LinHerlé Mercier, Marilena Oltmanns, Astrid Pacini, Tillys Petit, Robert S. Pickart, Darren Rayner, Fiammetta Straneo, Virginie Thierry, Martin Visbeck, Igor Yashayaev, Chun Zhou, Amy S. Bower

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Changes in the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation have potential to drive societally-important climate impacts, which have been traditionally linked to the strength of deep water formation in the subpolar North Atlantic. Yet there is neither clear observational evidence nor agreement among models about how changes in deep water formation influence overturning. Here we use data from a trans-basin mooring array (OSNAP—Overturning in the Subpolar North Atlantic Program) to show that winter convection during 2014-2018 in the interior basin had minimal impact on density changes in the deep western boundary currents in the subpolar basins. Contrary to previous modeling studies, we find no discernable relationship between western boundary changes and subpolar overturning variability over the observational time scales. Our results require a reconsideration of the notion of deep western boundary changes representing overturning characteristics, with implications for constraining the source of overturning variability within and downstream of the subpolar region.
Original languageEnglish
Article number3002 (2021)
Number of pages9
JournalNature Communications
Publication statusPublished - 24 May 2021


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