The Role of Continental Topography in the Present-Day Ocean's Mean Climate

R. J. Stouffer, J. L. Russell, R. L. Beadling, A. J. Broccoli, J. P. Krasting, S. Malyshev, Z. Naiman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Climate models of varying complexity have been used for decades to investigate the impact of mountains on the atmosphere and surface climate. Here, the impact of removing the continental topography on the present-day ocean climate is investigated using three different climate models spanning multiple generations. An idealized study is performed where all present-day land surface topography is removed and the equilibrium change in the oceanic mean state with and without the mountains is studied. When the mountains are removed, changes found in all three models include a weakening of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation and associated SST cooling in the subpolar North Atlantic. The SSTs also warm in all the models in the western North Pacific Ocean associated with a northward shift of the atmospheric jet and the Kuroshio. In the ocean interior, the magnitude of the temperature and salinity response to removing the mountains is relatively small and the sign and magnitude of the changes generally vary among the models. These different interior ocean responses are likely related to differences in the mean state of the control integrations due to differences in resolution and associated subgrid-scale mixing parameterizations. Compared to the results from 4xCO2 simulations, the interior ocean temperature changes caused by mountain removal are relatively small; however, the oceanic circulation response and Northern Hemisphere near-surface temperature changes are of a similar magnitude to the response to such radiative forcing changes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1327-1346
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Climate
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 15 2022


  • Ocean
  • Ocean circulation
  • Paleoclimate

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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