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Thermohaline Circulation in the Atlantic and its Variability under the Energy Constraint

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July 1, 2004 through June 30, 2006

Dr. Rui Xin Huang
Dept. of Physical Oceanography
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Woods Hole, MA 02543

Program Manager: Dr. James F. Todd, NOAA

Related NOAA Strategic Plan Goal:
Goal 2. Understand climate variability and change to enhance society’s ability to plan and respond.

Project Background:
The goal of this project is to study the decadal variability of the oceanic circulation, and oceanic circulation model’s sensitivity under the energy constraint and the traditional buoyancy constraint.

Fiscal Year 2004-2006 Progress:
Substantial progress has been made during the past 24 months. The most important discovery is that wind energy input to the oceans has increased greatly over the past 50 years. Wind energy input to the oceans is the most important source of mechanical energy sustaining and regulating the oceanic general circulation. Over the past 50 years, wind energy input into the oceans increased 20%, with a large increase in the Southern Ocean and a slight decline in the equatorial band. The impact to the wind-driven and thermohaline circulation of such a large variability in wind energy input can be substantial. The focus of this project is to continue to explore the dynamic impact of changes in mechanical energy input to the ocean, using both simple theoretical models and realistic oceanic general circulation models.
Numerical experiments designed for testing the decadal variability of the equatorial circulation related to ENSO have been carried out, in which dynamical impact due to decadal variability in diapycnal mixing coefficient has been tested in a layer model for the equatorial Pacific. Our numerical experiments indicated that variability in diapycnal mixing, which is induced by wind stress energy input, can induce large amplitude of SST anomaly in the equatorial Pacific, on the order of 0.3-0.4oC; thus, this may be one of the most important ingredients sustaining the decadal variability in ENSO dynamics. Our study has been written up in a manuscript which has been through second reviews and we hope it will soon be accepted for publication.

Wang, Q. and R. X. Huang, 2005: Decadal variability of pycnocline flows from the subtropical to the equatorial Pacific. J. Phys. Oceanogr., 35, 1861-1875.

R. X. Huang, W. Wang, and L. L. Liu, 2006. Decadal variability of wind energy input to the world ocean, manuscript, submitted to Deep Sea Research II, 53, 31-41.

Huang, C. J, W. Wang, and R. X. Huang, Climate variability in the Equatorial Pacific Ocean induced by decadal variability of mixing coefficient, submitted to J. Phys. Oceanogr., (in the process of review).

Outreach Activities:
I have taught an advanced course, theory of the oceanic general circulation, for graduate students in the MIT/WHOI Joint Program. The course is offered every two years. The course was offered in spring 2006, and the class lecture notes have been put on the website available for public approach.

I also worked as thesis committee member for two graduate students in the MIT/WHOI Joint Program students.

Last updated: August 19, 2008

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