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The Present and Future System for Measuring the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation and Heat Transport
Stuart Cunningham(1), Molly Baringer(2), Bill Johns(3), John Toole(4), Svein Østerhus(5), Juergen Fisher(6), Alberto Piola(7), Elaine McDonagah(1), Susan Lozier(8), Uwe Send(9), Torsten Kanzow(6), Jochem Marotzke(10), Monika Rhein(11), Silvia Garzoli(2), Steve Rintoul(12), Bernadette Sloyan(12), Sabrina Speich(13), Lynne Talley(14), Johanna Baehr(15), Christopher Meinen(2), Anne-Marie Treguier(16), Pascal Lherminier(16)
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The Atlantic Ocean circulation redistributes up to 25% of the global combined atmosphere-ocean heat flux and so is important for the mean climate of the Atlantic sector of the Northern Hemisphere. This meridional heat flux is accomplished by both the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) and by basin-wide horizontal gyre circulations. In the North Atlantic subtropical latitudes, the AMOC dominates the meridional heat flux, while in subpolar latitudes and in the subtropical South Atlantic the gyre circulations are also important. Climate models suggest the AMOC will slow over the coming decades as the earth warms, causing widespread cooling in the Northern hemisphere and additional sea-level rise. Monitoring systems for selected components of the AMOC have been in place in some areas for decades, nevertheless the present observational network provides only a partial view of the AMOC, and does not unambiguously resolve the full variability of the circulation. Additional observations, building on existing measurements, are required to more completely quantify the Atlantic meridional heat transport. A basin-wide monitoring array along 26.5°N has been continuously measuring the strength and vertical structure of the AMOC and meridional heat transport since March 31, 2004. The array has demonstrated its ability to observe the AMOC variability at that latitude and also a variety of surprising variability that will require substantially longer time series to understand fully. Here we propose monitoring the Atlantic meridional heat transport throughout the Atlantic at selected critical latitudes that have already been identified as regions of interest for the study of deep water formation and the strength of the subpolar gyre, transport variability of the Deep Western Boundary Current (DWBC) as well as the upper limb of the AMOC, and inter-ocean and intra-basin exchanges with the ultimate goal of determining regional and global controls for the AMOC in the North and South Atlantic Oceans. These new arrays will continuously measure the full depth, basin-wide or choke-point circulation and heat transport at a number of latitudes, to establish the dynamics and variability at each latitude and then their meridional connectivity. Modeling studies indicate that adaptations of the 26.5°N type of array may provide successful AMOC monitoring at other latitudes. However, further analysis and the development of new technologies will be needed to optimize cost effective systems for providing long term monitoring and data recovery at climate time scales. These arrays will provide benchmark observations of the AMOC that are fundamental for assimilation, initialization, and the verification of coupled hindcast/forecast climate models.
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This paper shall be cited as:
Cunningham, S. & Co-Authors (2010). "The Present and Future System for Measuring the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation and Heat Transport" in Proceedings of OceanObs’09: Sustained Ocean Observations and Information for Society (Vol. 2), Venice, Italy, 21-25 September 2009, Hall, J., Harrison, D.E. & Stammer, D., Eds., ESA Publication WPP-306, doi:10.5270/OceanObs09.cwp.21
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