National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2012

Enhanced upper ocean stratification with climate change in the CMIP3 models

Capotondi, A., M.A. Alexander, N.A. Bond, E.N. Curchitser, and J.D. Scott

J. Geophys. Res., 117(C4), C04031, doi: 10.1029/2011JC007409 (2012)

Changes in upper ocean stratification during the second half of the 21st century, relative to the second half of the 20th century, are examined in ten of the CMIP3 climate models according to the SRES-A2 scenario. The upper ocean stratification, defined here as the density difference between 200 m and the surface, is larger everywhere during the second half of the 21st century, indicative of an increasing degree of decoupling between the surface and the deeper oceans, with important consequences for many biogeochemical processes. The areas characterized by the largest stratification changes include the Arctic, the tropics, the North Atlantic, and the northeast Pacific. The increase in stratification is primarily due to the increase in surface temperature, whose influence upon density is largest in the tropical regions, and decreases with increasing latitude. The influence of salinity upon the stratification changes, while not as spatially extensive as that of temperature, is very large in the Arctic, North Atlantic and Northeast Pacific. Salinity also significantly contributes to the density decrease near the surface in the western tropical Pacific, but counteracts the negative influence of temperature upon density in the tropical Atlantic.

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