Southern Ocean control of glacial AMOC stability and Dansgaard-Oeschger interstadial duration Public Deposited

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  • Glacial periods exhibit abrupt Dansgaard-Oeschger (DO) climatic oscillations that are thought to be linked to instabilities in the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC). Great uncertainty remains regarding the dynamics of the DO cycle, as well as controls on the timing and duration of individual events. Using ice core data we show that the duration of warm (interstadial) periods is strongly correlated with Antarctic climate, and presumably with Southern Ocean (SO) temperature and the position of the Southern Hemisphere (SH) westerlies. We propose a SO control on AMOC stability and interstadial duration via the rate of Antarctic bottom water formation, meridional density/pressure gradients, Agulhas Leakage, and SO adiabatic upwelling. This hypothesis is supported by climate model experiments that demonstrate SO warming leads to a stronger AMOC that is less susceptible to freshwater perturbations. In the AMOC stability diagram, SO warming and strengthening of the SH westerlies both shift the vigorous AMOC branch toward higher freshwater values, thus raising the threshold for AMOC collapse. The proposed mechanism could provide a consistent explanation for several diverse observations, including maximum DO activity during intermediate ice volume/SH temperature, and successively shorter DO durations within each Bond cycle. It may further have implications for the fate of the AMOC under future global warming.
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  • Buizert, C., & Schmittner, A. (2015). Southern Ocean control of glacial AMOC stability and Dansgaard‐Oeschger interstadial duration. Paleoceanography, 30(12), 1595-1612. doi:10.1002/2015PA002795
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