John Marshall

Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Oceanography, MIT

Explorations of Atmosphere-Ocean-Ice Climates on an Aquaplanet and Their Meridional Energy Transports

Explorations of Atmosphere-Ocean-Ice Climates on an Aquaplanet and Their Meridional Energy Transports.

(Enderton, Daniel and Marshall, John), JOURNAL OF THE ATMOSPHERIC SCIENCES, vol. 66, no. 6, pp. pages, 2009.


The degree to which total meridional heat transport is sensitive to the details of its atmospheric and oceanic components is explored. A coupled atmosphere, ocean, and sea ice model of an aquaplanet is employed to simulate very different climates-some with polar ice caps, some without-even though they are driven by the same incoming solar flux. Differences arise due to varying geometrical constraints on ocean circulation influencing its ability to transport heat meridionally. Without complex land configurations, the results prove easier to diagnose and compare to theory and simple models and, hence, provide a useful test bed for ideas about heat transport and its partition within the climate system. In particular, the results are discussed in the context of a 1978 study by Stone, who argued that for a planet with Earth’s astronomical parameters and rotation rate, the total meridional heat transport would be independent of the detailed dynamical processes responsible for that transport and depend primarily on the distribution of incoming solar radiation and the mean planetary albedo. The authors find that in warm climates in which there is no ice, Stone’s result is a useful guide. In cold climates with significant polar ice caps, however, meridional gradients in albedo significantly affect the absorption of solar radiation and need to be included in any detailed calculation or discussion of total heat transport. Since the meridional extent of polar ice caps is sensitive to details of atmospheric and oceanic circulation, these cannot be ignored. Finally, what has been learned is applied to a study of the total heat transport estimated from the Earth Radiation Budget Experiment (ERBE) data.

doi = 10.1175/2008JAS2680.1