Articles | Volume 7, issue 4
Research article
21 Dec 2011
Research article |  | 21 Dec 2011

Volcanic impact on the Atlantic Ocean over the last millennium

J. Mignot, M. Khodri, C. Frankignoul, and J. Servonnat

Abstract. The oceanic response to volcanic eruptions over the last 1000 years is investigated with a focus on the North Atlantic Ocean, using a fully coupled AOGCM forced by a realistic time series of volcanic eruptions, total solar irradiance (TSI) and atmospheric greenhouse gases concentration. The model simulates little response to TSI variations but a strong and long-lasting thermal and dynamical oceanic adjustment to volcanic forcing, which is shown to be a function of the time period of the volcanic eruptions. The thermal response consists of a fast tropical cooling due to the radiative forcing by the volcanic eruptions, followed by a penetration of this cooling in the subtropical ocean interior one to five years after the eruption, and propagation of the anomalies toward the high latitudes. The oceanic circulation first adjusts rapidly to low latitude anomalous wind stress induced by the strong cooling. The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) shows a significant intensification 5 to 10 years after the eruptions of the period post-1400 A.D., in response to anomalous atmospheric momentum forcing, and a slight weakening in the following decade. In response to the stronger eruptions occurring between 1100 and 1300, the AMOC shows no intensification and a stronger reduction after 10 years. This study thus stresses the diversity of AMOC response to volcanic eruptions in climate models and discusses possible explanations.