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Proceedings of OceanObs'09: Sustained Ocean Observations and Information for Society

PLENARY PAPERdoi:10.5270/OceanObs09.pp.32

Deep Circulation and Meridional Overturning: Recent Progress and a Strategy for Sustained Observations

Steve R. Rintoul(1), M. Balmesada(2), S. Cunningham(3), B.D. Dushaw(4), S. Garzoli(5), A.L. Gordon(6), P. Heimbach(7), M. Hood(8), G.C. Johnson(9), M. Latif(10), U. Send(11), C. Shum(12), S. Speich(13), D. Stammer(14)

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The global overturning circulation (OC) and its deep branch strongly influence phenomena of direct interest to society, including climate change and variability, sea level, temperature and rainfall patterns over land, global biogeochemical cycles and marine productivity. Observations of the deep ocean remain scarce, limiting our ability to understand and predict the overturning and deep circulations, their response to changes in forcing, and the impact of changes in the deep ocean on marine ecosystems, biogeochemical cycles and global climate. However, substantial progress has been made in recent years, including quantitative estimates of the strength of the global overturning circulation; the first time series measurements of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation; evidence for changes in temperature, salinity and carbon in the deep ocean; and a deeper understanding of the role of the deep ocean and OC in low-frequency climate variability. These advances provide a guide to the design and implementation of a sustained observing system for the deep ocean and OC. We outline a strategy for sustained observations of the deep ocean that begins with tools available now, primarily repeat hydrography and moored arrays spanning deep boundary currents, key passages, and ocean basins where feasible. New technologies - including profiling floats and gliders capable of sampling the full ocean depth, long-duration moorings with data telemetry, and new sensors are needed to complete a comprehensive observing system for the deep ocean.

1CAWCR, CSIRO and ACE CRC, GPO Box 1538, Hobart, Tasmania 7001 Australia
2ECMWF, Shinfield Park, Reading RG2 9AX, UK,
3National Oceanography Centre Southampton, European Way, Southampton, SO14 3ZH, UK,
4Applied Physics Laboratory, University of Washington, 1013 NE 40th St., Seattle, WA 98105-6698, USA
5NOAA/AOML 4301 Rickenbacker Causeway, Miami FL 33149 USA
6Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, 61 Route 9W, Palisades, NY 10964 usa
7MIT, EAPS 54-1518, 77 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge MA 02139 USA
8Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO, 1 Rue Miollis, 75732 Paris cedex 15, France
9NOAA/PMEL, 7600 Sand Point Way NE, Seattle, WA 98115 USA
10Leibniz-Institut für Meereswissenschaften, Düsternbrooker Weg 20 24105 Kiel, Germany
11Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Mail Code 0230, UCSD, La Jolla, CA 92093-0230, USA
12Division of Geodetic Science, School of Earth Sciences, Ohio State University, 125 S Oval Mall, 221B Mendenhall Lab, Columbus, Ohio 43210-1398, USA
13LPO, UMR6523 CNRS/IFREMER/UBO, 6, av Le Gorgeu C.S. 93837, 29238 Brest Cedex 3 France
14Center for Marine and Climate Research, KlimaCampus Universität Hamburg, Bundesstr. 53, 20146 Hamburg, Germany

Correspondence should be addressed to E-mail: steve.rintoul@csiro.au

This paper shall be cited as:

Rintoul, S. & Co-Authors (2010). "Deep Circulation and Meridional Overturning: Recent Progress and a Strategy for Sustained Observations" in Proceedings of OceanObs’09: Sustained Ocean Observations and Information for Society (Vol. 1), Venice, Italy, 21-25 September 2009, Hall, J., Harrison, D.E. & Stammer, D., Eds., ESA Publication WPP-306, doi:10.5270/OceanObs09.pp.32

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