Irreducible Southern Ocean State Uncertainty due to Global Ocean Initial Conditions

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Hansi Alice Singh , Naomi Goldenson , John Fyfe , Lorenzo M Polvani 


How do ocean initial conditions impact historical and future climate projections in Earth system models? To answer this question, we use the 50-member Canadian Earth System Model (CanESM2) large ensemble, in which individual ensemble members are initialized using a strategic combination of different oceanic initial states and different atmospheric perturbations. We show that global ocean heat content anomalies associated with the different ocean initial states persist from initialization at year 1950 through the end of the simulations at year 2100. We also find that these anomalies most readily impact surface climate over the Southern Ocean. Ocean initial conditions affect Southern Ocean surface climate because persistent deep ocean temperature anomalies upwell along sloping isopycnal surfaces that delineate neighboring branches of the Upper and Lower Cells of the Global Meridional Overturning Circulation. As a result, up to a quarter of the ensemble variance in Southern Ocean turbulent heat fluxes, heat uptake, and surface temperature trends can be traced to variance in the ocean initial state. Such a discernible impact of varying ocean initial conditions on ensemble variance over the Southern Ocean is evident throughout the full 150 simulation years of the ensemble, even though upper ocean temperature anomalies due to varying ocean initial conditions rapidly dissipate over the first two decades of model integration over much of the rest of the globe.



Oceanography and Atmospheric Sciences and Meteorology


Southern Ocean, Climate Science, Large Ensemble, Large Ensemble Initialization, Internal Variability, Climate Projections


Published: 2021-08-17 09:18

Last Updated: 2021-08-17 16:18


CC BY Attribution 4.0 International

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Conflict of interest statement:

Data Availability (Reason not available):
All data are were published as part of CMIP5. They

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