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Title: Stability of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation: A Review and Synthesis

Abstract

The notion that the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) can have more than one stable equilibrium emerged in the 1980s as a powerful hypothesis to explain rapid climate variability during the Pleistocene. Ever since, the idea that a temporary perturbation of the AMOC—or a permanent change in its forcing—could trigger an irreversible collapse has remained a reason for concern. Here we review literature on the equilibrium stability of the AMOC and present a synthesis that puts our understanding of past and future AMOC behavior in a unifying framework. This framework is based on concepts from Dynamical Systems Theory, which has proven to be an important tool in interpreting a wide range of model behavior. We conclude that it cannot be ruled out that the AMOC in our current climate is in, or close to, a regime of multiple equilibria. But there is considerable uncertainty in the location of stability thresholds with respect to our current climate state, so we have no credible indications of where our present-day AMOC is located with respect to thresholds. We conclude by identifying gaps in our knowledge and proposing possible ways forward to address these gaps.

Authors:
ORCiD logo [1]; ORCiD logo [2];  [3];  [4]; ORCiD logo [5]; ORCiD logo [6];  [7];  [3];  [3]; ORCiD logo [1]
  1. Los Alamos National Lab. (LANL), Los Alamos, NM (United States)
  2. Univ. of Washington, Seattle, WA (United States); National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Seattle, WA (United States)
  3. Univ. of Southampton (United Kingdom)
  4. Yale Univ., New Haven, CT (United States); Sorbonne Univ., Paris (France)
  5. National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, CO (United States)
  6. Met Office Hadley Centre, Exeter (United Kingdom)
  7. Univ. of California, Riverside, CA (United States)
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Los Alamos National Lab. (LANL), Los Alamos, NM (United States)
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE Office of Science (SC), Biological and Environmental Research (BER) (SC-23); USDOE National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA); National Science Foundation (NSF)
OSTI Identifier:
1564586
Alternate Identifier(s):
OSTI ID: 1564588; OSTI ID: 1571615
Report Number(s):
LA-UR-19-21448
Journal ID: ISSN 2169-9275
Grant/Contract Number:  
89233218CNA000001
Resource Type:
Published Article
Journal Name:
Journal of Geophysical Research. Oceans
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 124; Journal Issue: 8; Journal ID: ISSN 2169-9275
Publisher:
American Geophysical Union
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
54 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES; Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation; AMOC stability; Review; Dynamical Systems Theory; climate dynamics; climate thresholds

Citation Formats

Weijer, Wilbert, Cheng, Wei, Drijfhout, Sybren S., Fedorov, Alexey V., Hu, Aixue, Jackson, Laura C., Liu, Wei, McDonagh, Elaine L., Mecking, Jennifer V., and Zhang, Jiaxu. Stability of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation: A Review and Synthesis. United States: N. p., 2019. Web. doi:10.1029/2019JC015083.
Weijer, Wilbert, Cheng, Wei, Drijfhout, Sybren S., Fedorov, Alexey V., Hu, Aixue, Jackson, Laura C., Liu, Wei, McDonagh, Elaine L., Mecking, Jennifer V., & Zhang, Jiaxu. Stability of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation: A Review and Synthesis. United States. doi:10.1029/2019JC015083.
Weijer, Wilbert, Cheng, Wei, Drijfhout, Sybren S., Fedorov, Alexey V., Hu, Aixue, Jackson, Laura C., Liu, Wei, McDonagh, Elaine L., Mecking, Jennifer V., and Zhang, Jiaxu. Wed . "Stability of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation: A Review and Synthesis". United States. doi:10.1029/2019JC015083.
@article{osti_1564586,
title = {Stability of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation: A Review and Synthesis},
author = {Weijer, Wilbert and Cheng, Wei and Drijfhout, Sybren S. and Fedorov, Alexey V. and Hu, Aixue and Jackson, Laura C. and Liu, Wei and McDonagh, Elaine L. and Mecking, Jennifer V. and Zhang, Jiaxu},
abstractNote = {The notion that the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) can have more than one stable equilibrium emerged in the 1980s as a powerful hypothesis to explain rapid climate variability during the Pleistocene. Ever since, the idea that a temporary perturbation of the AMOC—or a permanent change in its forcing—could trigger an irreversible collapse has remained a reason for concern. Here we review literature on the equilibrium stability of the AMOC and present a synthesis that puts our understanding of past and future AMOC behavior in a unifying framework. This framework is based on concepts from Dynamical Systems Theory, which has proven to be an important tool in interpreting a wide range of model behavior. We conclude that it cannot be ruled out that the AMOC in our current climate is in, or close to, a regime of multiple equilibria. But there is considerable uncertainty in the location of stability thresholds with respect to our current climate state, so we have no credible indications of where our present-day AMOC is located with respect to thresholds. We conclude by identifying gaps in our knowledge and proposing possible ways forward to address these gaps.},
doi = {10.1029/2019JC015083},
journal = {Journal of Geophysical Research. Oceans},
number = 8,
volume = 124,
place = {United States},
year = {2019},
month = {7}
}

Journal Article:
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DOI: 10.1029/2019JC015083

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