The global ocean circulation on a retrograde rotating earth
- Institute for Marine and Atmospheric research Utrecht, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands
Abstract. To understand the three-dimensional ocean circulation patterns that have occurred in past continental geometries, it is crucial to study the role of the present-day continental geometry and surface (wind stress and buoyancy) forcing on the present-day global ocean circulation. This circulation, often referred to as the Conveyor state, is characterised by an Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (MOC) with a deep water formation at northern latitudes and the absence of such a deep water formation in the North Pacific. This MOC asymmetry is often attributed to the difference in surface freshwater flux: the Atlantic as a whole is a basin with net evaporation, while the Pacific receives net precipitation. This issue is revisited in this paper by considering the global ocean circulation on a retrograde rotating earth, computing an equilibrium state of the coupled atmosphere-ocean-land surface-sea ice model CCSM3. The Atlantic-Pacific asymmetry in surface freshwater flux is indeed reversed, but the ocean circulation pattern is not an Inverse Conveyor state (with deep water formation in the North Pacific) as there is relatively weak but intermittently strong deep water formation in the North Atlantic. Using a fully-implicit, global ocean-only model the stability properties of the Atlantic MOC on a retrograde rotating earth are also investigated, showing a similar regime of multiple equilibria as in the present-day case. These results indicate that the present-day asymmetry in surface freshwater flux is not the most important factor setting the Atlantic-Pacific salinity difference and, thereby, the asymmetry in the global MOC.