Articles | Volume 8, issue 10
Development and technical paper
06 Oct 2015
Development and technical paper |  | 06 Oct 2015

Increasing vertical mixing to reduce Southern Ocean deep convection in NEMO3.4

C. Heuzé, J. K. Ridley, D. Calvert, D. P. Stevens, and K. J. Heywood

Abstract. Most CMIP5 (Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5) models unrealistically form Antarctic Bottom Water by open ocean deep convection in the Weddell and Ross seas. To identify the mechanisms triggering Southern Ocean deep convection in models, we perform sensitivity experiments on the ocean model NEMO3.4 forced by prescribed atmospheric fluxes. We vary the vertical velocity scale of the Langmuir turbulence, the fraction of turbulent kinetic energy transferred below the mixed layer, and the background diffusivity and run short simulations from 1980. All experiments exhibit deep convection in the Riiser-Larsen Sea in 1987; the origin is a positive sea ice anomaly in 1985, causing a shallow anomaly in mixed layer depth, hence anomalously warm surface waters and subsequent polynya opening. Modifying the vertical mixing impacts both the climatological state and the associated surface anomalies. The experiments with enhanced mixing exhibit colder surface waters and reduced deep convection. The experiments with decreased mixing give warmer surface waters, open larger polynyas causing more saline surface waters and have deep convection across the Weddell Sea until the simulations end. Extended experiments reveal an increase in the Drake Passage transport of 4 Sv each year deep convection occurs, leading to an unrealistically large transport at the end of the simulation. North Atlantic deep convection is not significantly affected by the changes in mixing parameters. As new climate model overflow parameterisations are developed to form Antarctic Bottom Water more realistically, we argue that models would benefit from stopping Southern Ocean deep convection, for example by increasing their vertical mixing.

Short summary
Most ocean models, including NEMO, have unrealistic Southern Ocean deep convection. That is, through extensive areas of the Southern Ocean, they exhibit convection from the surface of the ocean to the sea floor. We find this convection to be an issue as it impacts the whole ocean circulation, notably strengthening the Antarctic Circumpolar Current. Using sensitivity experiments, we show that counter-intuitively the vertical mixing needs to be enhanced to reduce this spurious convection.