Modeling the water masses of the Atlantic Ocean at the Last Glacial Maximum.

cschaefer-neth [ at ]


We produced gridded monthly sea-surface boundary conditions for the Atlantic Ocean at the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) based on the sea-surface temperature reconstruction of the GLAMAP project. We used an ocean general circulation model (OGCM), subject to these sea-surface boundary conditions and a corresponding wind stress field from an atmospheric general circulation model, to study the differences in the distribution of the main water masses between the LGM and the present. Our global OGCM is characterized by high vertical resolution, low vertical diffusion, and isopycnal mixing and hence allows for a realistic representation of the hydrology and circulation of the modern Atlantic Ocean. According to a series of LGM experiments with an increasing sea-surface salinity anomaly in the Weddell Sea, the ventilated thermocline was colder than today by 2-3 deg C in the North Atlantic Ocean and, in the experiment with the largest anomaly (1.0 beyond the global anomaly), by 4-5 deg C in the South Atlantic Ocean. Its depth was reduced by 50 m on average, most notably in the tropics. In the North Atlantic Ocean the outcrop locations of the thermocline isopycnal surfaces migrated southward by 5-10 degrees, and the ventilation increased. In the South Atlantic Ocean the mixed layer and thermocline water masses were dominated by cold water originating from Drake Passage, and the import of warm water from the Indian Ocean was reduced to about 4 Sv or 40% of its modern value. Antarctic Intermediate Water was colder by 3-4 deg C and could be traced as far as 10 N. The meridional overturning rates of North Atlantic Deep Water (NADW) and Antarctic Bottom Water (AABW) in the Atlantic Ocean were similar to those of the present-day experiment (9 10 Sv and 4 Sv, respectively). However, NADW cooled by 2.5 deg C and AABW by 1 deg C. AABW was near the freezing point of seawater at the surface and the saltiest water mass in the Atlantic Ocean, even saltier than NADW. We show that the differences between the LGM and the present-day experiments can be traced back to the changes in the subpolar and interhemispheric sea-surface density gradients.

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Peer revision
ISI/Scopus peer-reviewed
Publication Status
Eprint ID
DOI 10.1029/2002PA000783

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Paul, A. and Schäfer-Neth, C. (2003): Modeling the water masses of the Atlantic Ocean at the Last Glacial Maximum. , Paleoceanography . doi: 10.1029/2002PA000783

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