Greenhouse-gas forced changes in the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation and related worldwide sea-level change

Matthew P. Couldrey, Jonathan M. Gregory, Xiao Dong, Oluwayemi Garuba, Helmuth Haak, Aixue Hu, William J. Hurlin, Jiangbo Jin, Johann Jungclaus, Armin Köhl, Hailong Liu, Sayantani Ojha, Oleg A. Saenko, Abhishek Savita, Tatsuo Suzuki, Zipeng Yu, Laure Zanna

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The effect of anthropogenic climate change in the ocean is challenging to project because atmosphere-ocean general circulation models (AOGCMs) respond differently to forcing. This study focuses on changes in the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), ocean heat content (Δ OHC), and the spatial pattern of ocean dynamic sea level (Δ ζ). We analyse experiments following the FAFMIP protocol, in which AOGCMs are forced at the ocean surface with standardised heat, freshwater and momentum flux perturbations, typical of those produced by doubling CO 2. Using two new heat-flux-forced experiments, we find that the AMOC weakening is mainly caused by and linearly related to the North Atlantic heat flux perturbation, and further weakened by a positive coupled heat flux feedback. The quantitative relationships are model-dependent, but few models show significant AMOC change due to freshwater or momentum forcing, or to heat flux forcing outside the North Atlantic. AMOC decline causes warming at the South Atlantic-Southern Ocean interface. It does not strongly affect the global-mean vertical distribution of Δ OHC, which is dominated by the Southern Ocean. AMOC decline strongly affects Δ ζ in the North Atlantic, with smaller effects in the Southern Ocean and North Pacific. The ensemble-mean Δ ζ and Δ OHC patterns are mostly attributable to the heat added by the flux perturbation, with smaller effects from ocean heat and salinity redistribution. The ensemble spread, on the other hand, is largely due to redistribution, with pronounced disagreement among the AOGCMs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2003-2039
Number of pages37
JournalClimate Dynamics
Issue number7-8
StatePublished - Apr 2023


  • AMOC
  • Climate modelling
  • Sea-level rise

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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