John Marshall

Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Oceanography, MIT

A study of the interaction of the North Atlantic oscillation with ocean circulation

A study of the interaction of the North Atlantic oscillation with ocean circulation.

(Marshall, J and Johnson, H and Goodman, J), JOURNAL OF CLIMATE, vol. 14, no. 7, pp. pages, 2001.


Observed patterns of wind stress curl and air-sea heat flux associated with the North Atlantic oscillation (NAO) are used to discuss the response of ocean gyres and thermohaline circulation to NAO forcing and their possible feedback on the NAO. The observations motivate, and are interpreted in the framework of, a simple mathematical model that couples Ekman layers, ocean gyres, and thermohaline circulation to the atmospheric jet stream. Meridional shifts in the zero wind stress curl line are invoked to drive anomalies in ocean gyres, and north-south dipoles in air-sea flux drive anomalous thermohaline circulation. Both gyres and thermohaline circulation play a role in modulating sea surface temperature anomalies and hence, through air-sea interaction, the overlying jet stream. The model, which can be expressed in the form of a delayed oscillator with ocean gyres and/or thermohaline circulation providing the delay, identifies key nondimensional parameters that control whether the ocean responds passively to NAO forcing or actively couples. It suggests that both thermohaline circulation and ocean gyres can play a role in coupled interactions on decadal timescales.

doi = 10.1175/1520-0442(2001)0142.0.CO;2