The analyses presented here focus on the Southern Ocean as simulated in a set of global coupled climate model control experiments conducted by several international climate modeling groups. Dominated by the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC), the vast Southern Ocean can influence large-scale surface climate features on various time scales. Its climatic relevance stems in part from it being the region where most of the transformation of the World Ocean's water masses occurs. In climate change experiments that simulate greenhouse gas-induced warming, Southern Ocean air-sea heat fluxes and three-dimensional circulation patterns make it a region where much of the future oceanic heat storage takes place, though the magnitude of that heat storage is one of the larger sources of uncertainty associated with the transient climate response in such model projections. Factors such as the Southern Ocean's wind forcing, heat, and salt budgets are linked to the structure and transport of the ACC in ways that have not been expressed clearly in the literature. These links are explored here in a coupled model context by analyzing a sizable suite of preindustrial control experiments associated with the forthcoming Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's Fourth Assessment Report. A framework is developed that uses measures of coupled model simulation characteristics, primarily those related to the Southern Ocean wind forcing and water mass properties, to allow one to categorize, and to some extent predict, which models do better or worse at simulating the Southern Ocean and why. Hopefull his framework will also lead to increased understanding of the ocean's response to climate changes.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Atmospheric Science