The dynamics of ocean heat transport variability

Jayne, Steven R. and Marotzke, Jochem (2001) The dynamics of ocean heat transport variability. Reviews of Geophysics, 39, (3), 385-411.


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The north-south heat transport is the prime manifestation of the ocean’s
role in global climate, but understanding of its variability has been fragmentary
owing to uncertainties in observational analyses, limitations in models, and the
lack of a convincing mechanism. We review the dynamics of global ocean heat
transport variability, with an emphasis on timescales from monthly to interannual.
We synthesize relatively simple dynamical ideas and show that together they
explain heat transport variability in a state-of-the-art, high-resolution ocean
general circulation model. Globally, the cross-equatorial, seasonal heat transport
fluctuations are close to plus or minus 3x10supersccript 15 watts, the same amplitude as the seasonal, crossequatorial atmospheric energy transport. The variability is concentrated within 20 degrees of the equator and dominated by the annual cycle. The majority of the variability is due to wind-induced current fluctuations in which the time-varying wind drives Ekman layer mass transports that are compensated by depth-independent return flows. The temperature difference between the mass transports gives rise to the time-dependent heat transport. It is found that in the heat budget the divergence of the time-varying heat transport is largely balanced by changes in heat storage. Despite the Ekman transport’s strong impact on the time-dependent heat transport, the largely depth-independent character of its associated meridional overturning streamfunction means that it does not affect estimates of the timemean heat transport made by one-time hydrographic surveys. Away from the tropics, the heat transport variability associated with the depth-independent gyre and depth-dependent circulations, is much weaker than the Ekman variability. The non-Ekman contributions can amount to a 0.2–0.4x10 superscript 15 watts standard deviation in the heat transport estimated from a one-time hydrographic survey.

Item Type: Article
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Keywords: heat transport, ocean general circulation model, meridional overturning circulation, equator
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GC Oceanography
Divisions : University Structure - Pre August 2011 > School of Ocean & Earth Science (SOC/SOES)
ePrint ID: 257
Accepted Date and Publication Date:
Date Deposited: 09 Dec 2003
Last Modified: 27 Mar 2014 17:59

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