Difference between the North Atlantic and Pacific meridional overturning circulation in response to the uplift of the Tibetan Plateau

Su, Baohuang; Jiang, Dabang; Zhang, Ran; Sepulchre, Pierre; Ramstein, Gilles

The role of the Tibetan Plateau (TP) in maintaining the large-scale overturning circulation in the Atlantic and Pacific is investigated using a coupled atmosphere–ocean model. For the present day with a realistic topography, model simulation shows a strong Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) but a near absence of the Pacific meridional overturning circulation (PMOC), which are in good agreement with the present observations. In contrast, the simulation without the TP depicts a collapsed AMOC and a strong PMOC that dominates deep-water formation. The switch in deep-water formation between the two basins results from changes in the large-scale atmospheric circulation and atmosphere–ocean feedback over the Atlantic and Pacific. The intensified westerly winds and increased freshwater flux over the North Atlantic cause an initial slowdown of the AMOC, while the weakened East Asian monsoon circulation and associated decreased freshwater flux over the North Pacific give rise to the initial intensification of the PMOC. The further decreased heat flux and the associated increase in sea-ice fraction promote the final AMOC collapse over the Atlantic, while the further increased heat flux leads to the final PMOC establishment over the Pacific. Although the simulations were performed in a cold world, it still importantly implicates that the uplift of the TP alone could have been a potential driver for the reorganization of PMOC–AMOC between the late Eocene and early Oligocene.

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Su, Baohuang / Jiang, Dabang / Zhang, Ran / et al: Difference between the North Atlantic and Pacific meridional overturning circulation in response to the uplift of the Tibetan Plateau. 2018. Copernicus Publications.

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