Controlling high-latitude Southern Ocean convection in climate models Academic Article uri icon


  • 2014 Elsevier Ltd. Earth System Models (ESMs) generally suffer from a poor simulation of the High-Latitude Southern Ocean (HLSO). Here we aim at a better understanding of the shortcomings by investigating the sensitivity of the HLSO to the external freshwater flux and the horizontal resolution in forced and coupled simulations with the Max-Planck-Institute Ocean Model (MPIOM). Forced experiments reveal an immediate reduction of open-ocean convection with additional freshwater input. The latter leads to a remarkably realistic simulation of the distinct water-mass structure in the central Weddell Sea featuring a temperature maximum of +0.5. C at 250. m depth. Similar, but more modest improvements occur over a time span of 40. years after switching from a forced to a coupled simulation with an eddy-resolving version of MPIOM. The switch is accompanied with pronounced changes of the external freshwater flux and the wind field, as well as a more realistic heat flux due to coupling. Similar to the forced freshwater-flux experiments, a heat reservoir develops at depth, which in turn decreases the vertically integrated density of the HLSO and reduces the Antarctic Circumpolar Current to rather realistic values. Coupling with a higher resolution version of the atmosphere model (ECHAM6) yields distinct improvements of the HLSO water-mass structure and sea-ice cover. While the coupled simulations reveal a realistic amount of Antarctic runoff, its distribution appears too concentrated along the coast. Spreading the runoff over a wider region, as suggested in earlier studies to mimic the effect of freshwater transport through icebergs, also leads to noticeable improvements of the HLSO water-mass properties, predominantly along the coast. This suggests that the spread of the runoff improves the representation of Antarctic Bottom Water formation through enhanced near-boundary convection rather than weakened open-ocean convection.

published proceedings


author list (cited authors)

  • Stoessel, A., Notz, D., Haumann, F. A., Haak, H., Jungclaus, J., & Mikolajewicz, U.

citation count

  • 32

complete list of authors

  • Stoessel, Achim||Notz, Dirk||Haumann, F Alexander||Haak, Helmuth||Jungclaus, Johann||Mikolajewicz, Uwe

publication date

  • January 2015