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© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  10 Jul 2020

10 Jul 2020

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A revised version of this preprint is currently under review for the journal OS.

Antarctic Bottom Water and North Atlantic Deep Water in CMIP6 models

Céline Heuzé Céline Heuzé
  • Department of Earth Sciences, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden

Abstract. Deep water formation is the driver of the global ocean circulation, yet it was poorly represented in the previous generation of climate models. We here quantify biases in Antarctic Bottom Water (AABW) and North Atlantic Deep Water (NADW) formation, properties, transport and global extent in 35 climate models that participated in the latest Climate Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP6). Several CMIP6 models are correctly forming AABW via shelf processes, but in both hemispheres, the large majority of climate models form deep water via open ocean deep convection, too deep, too often, over too large an area. Models that convect the least form the most accurate AABW, but the least accurate NADW. The four CESM2 models with their pipe/overflow parameterisation are among the most accurate models. In the Atlantic, the colder AABW, the stronger the abyssal overturning at 30° S, and the further north the AABW layer extends. The saltier NADW, the stronger the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), and the further south the NADW layer extends. In the Indian and Pacific oceans in contrast, the fresher models are the ones who extend the furthest regardless of the strength of their abyssal overturning, most likely because they also are the models with the weakest fronts in the Antarctic Circumpolar Currents. There are clear improvements since CMIP5: several CMIP6 models correctly represent or parameterise Antarctic shelf processes, fewer models exhibit Southern Ocean deep convection, more models convect at the right location in the Labrador Sea, bottom density biases are reduced, and abyssal overturning is more realistic. But more improvements are required, e.g. by generalising the use of overflow parameterisations or by coupling to interactive ice sheet models, before deep water formation, and hence heat and carbon storage, are represented accurately.

Céline Heuzé

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Céline Heuzé

Video supplement

Overflow ACCESS-CM2 Céline Heuzé

Overflow NorESM2-MM Céline Heuzé

Céline Heuzé


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Latest update: 28 Sep 2020
Publications Copernicus
Short summary
Dense waters sinking by Antarctica and in the North Atlantic control global ocean currents and carbon storage. We need to know how these change with climate change, so we need accurate climate models. Here we show that dense water sinking in the latest models is better than in the previous ones, but there still is too much water sinking, too deep, too often. This impacts how well models represent the deep ocean density and the deep currents, globally. We also suggest ways to improve the models.
Dense waters sinking by Antarctica and in the North Atlantic control global ocean currents and...