Can sparse proxy data constrain the strength of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation?
Abstract. In a feasibility study, the potential of proxy data for the temperature and salinity during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM, about 19 000 to 23 000 years before present) in constraining the strength of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) with a general ocean circulation model was explored. The proxy data were simulated by drawing data from four different model simulations at the ocean sediment core locations of the Multiproxy Approach for the Reconstruction of the Glacial Ocean surface (MARGO) project, and perturbing these data with realistic noise estimates. The results suggest that our method has the potential to provide estimates of the past strength of the AMOC even from sparse data, but in general, paleo-sea-surface temperature data without additional prior knowledge about the ocean state during the LGM is not adequate to constrain the model. On the one hand, additional data in the deep-ocean and salinity data are shown to be highly important in estimating the LGM circulation. On the other hand, increasing the amount of surface data alone does not appear to be enough for better estimates. Finally, better initial guesses to start the state estimation procedure would greatly improve the performance of the method. Indeed, with a sufficiently good first guess, just the sea-surface temperature data from the MARGO project promise to be sufficient for reliable estimates of the strength of the AMOC.