Impact of a 30% reduction in Atlantic meridional overturning during 2009–2010
- 1National Oceanography Centre Southampton, University of Southampton, Empress Dock, Southampton, UK
- 2National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, Empress Dock, Southampton, UK
Abstract. The Atlantic meridional overturning circulation comprises warm upper waters flowing northward, becoming colder and denser until they form deep water in the Labrador and Nordic Seas that then returns southward through the North and South Atlantic. The ocean heat transport associated with this circulation is 1.3 PW, accounting for 25% of the maximum combined atmosphere–ocean heat transport necessary to balance the Earth's radiation budget. We have been monitoring the circulation at 25° N since 2004. A 30% slowdown in the circulation for 14 months during 2009–2010 reduced northward ocean heat transport across 25° N by 0.4 PW and resulted in colder upper ocean waters north of 25° N and warmer waters south of 25° N. The spatial pattern of upper ocean temperature anomalies helped push the wintertime circulation 2010–2011 into record-low negative NAO (North Atlantic Oscillation) conditions with accompanying severe winter conditions over northwestern Europe. The warmer temperatures south of 25° N contributed to the high intensity hurricane season in summer 2010.