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Earth System Dynamics An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union

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© Author(s) 2012. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Research article
16 Aug 2012
Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. A revision of the manuscript for further review has not been submitted.
Minor effect of meltwater on the ocean circulation during deglaciation
G. Lohmann1,2, K. Grosfeld1, M. Butzin1,2, P. Huybrechts3, and C. Zweck4 1Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, Bremerhaven, Germany
2Center for Marine Environmental Sciences, University of Bremen, Bremen, Germany
3Earth System Sciences & Departement Geografie, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Brussel, Belgium
4Department of Hydrology and Water Resources, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona, USA
Abstract. Decaying Northern Hemisphere ice sheets during deglaciation affect the high latitude hydrological balance in the North Atlantic and therefore the ocean circulation after the Last Glacial Maximum. Surprisingly, geological data suggest that meltwater fluxes of about 14–20 m sea-level equivalent flushed into the North Atlantic without significantly influencing the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation. Using a three-dimensional ocean circulation model coupled to an energy balance model of the atmosphere, we investigate the response of the ocean circulation to spatio-temporal variable deglacial freshwater discharges. Freshwater inputs are simulated by a three-dimensional thermo-mechanical ice sheet model of the Northern Hemisphere. In our experiments, we find a strong sensitivity of the ocean circulation when the deglacial meltwater is injected into the surface layers yielding a quasi shut-down. On the other hand, the parameterization of huge sub-glacial outbursts as so-called hyperpycnal flows are mimicked through bottom injections in ocean models leading to a reduced sensitivity of the overturning circulation against freshwater perturbations and providing a consistent representation of the deglacial climate evolution.

Citation: Lohmann, G., Grosfeld, K., Butzin, M., Huybrechts, P., and Zweck, C.: Minor effect of meltwater on the ocean circulation during deglaciation, Earth Syst. Dynam. Discuss.,, in review, 2012.
G. Lohmann et al.
G. Lohmann et al.
G. Lohmann et al.


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