Dynamic sea level changes following changes in the thermohaline circulation

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Using the coupled climate model CLIMBER-3α, we investigate changes in sea surface elevation due to a weakening of the thermohaline circulation (THC). In addition to a global sea level rise due to a warming of the deep sea, this leads to a regional dynamic sea level change which follows quasi-instantaneously any change in the ocean circulation. We show that the magnitude of this dynamic effect can locally reach up to ~1m, depending on the initial THC strength. In some regions the rate of change can be up to 20-25 mm/yr. The emerging patterns are discussed with respect to the oceanic circulation changes. Most prominent is a south-north gradient reflecting the changes in geostrophic surface currents. Our results suggest that an analysis of observed sea level change patterns could be useful for monitoring the THC strength.
© Springer Verlag A. G. The authors are grateful to J. Mignot for fruitful discussions. A.L. was funded by the Comer foundation. A.G. and M. H. were funded through the James S. McDonnell Foundation Centennial Fellowship. M.M. was funded by the Spanish Ministry for Science and Education through the Ramón y Cajal programme.
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