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Centennial Changes in the Indonesian Throughflow Connected to the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation: The Ocean's Transient Conveyor Belt

Sun, Shantong and Thompson, Andrew F. (2020) Centennial Changes in the Indonesian Throughflow Connected to the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation: The Ocean's Transient Conveyor Belt. Geophysical Research Letters, 47 (21). Art. No. e2020GL090615. ISSN 0094-8276. doi:10.1029/2020gl090615.

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Climate models consistently project a robust weakening of the Indonesian Throughflow (ITF) and the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) in response to greenhouse gas forcing. Previous studies of ITF variability have largely focused on local processes in the Indo‐Pacific Basin. Here, we propose that much of the centennial‐scale ITF weakening is dynamically linked to changes in the Atlantic Basin and communicated between basins via wave processes. In response to an AMOC slowdown, the Indian Ocean develops a northward surface transport anomaly that converges mass and modifies sea surface height in the Indian Ocean, which weakens the ITF. We illustrate these dynamic interbasin connections using a 1.5‐layer reduced gravity model and then validate the responses in a comprehensive general circulation model. Our results highlight the importance of transient volume exchanges between the Atlantic and Indo‐Pacific basins in regulating the global ocean circulation in a changing climate.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription ItemReduced gravity model
https://www.earthsystemgrid.orgRelated ItemClimate Data Gateway ItemEarth System Grid Federation node
Sun, Shantong0000-0002-6932-5589
Thompson, Andrew F.0000-0003-0322-4811
Additional Information:© 2020 American Geophysical Union. Issue Online: 02 November 2020; Version of Record online: 02 November 2020; Accepted manuscript online: 26 October 2020; Manuscript accepted: 15 October 2020; Manuscript revised: 13 October 2020; Manuscript received: 01 September 2020. We thank Oluwayemi A. Garuba for an insightful discussion at the 2020 Ocean Sciences Meeting that provided inspiration for this study. We are grateful for helpful discussions with Tony Lee, Joern Callies, Emily Newsom, and Earle Wilson. We also thank two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments. SS and AFT acknowledge support from NSF grant OPP‐1644172 as well as NASA's R&TD Earth2050 program. Data Availability Statement: The reduced gravity model is available at the online open access repository figshare (, under a “CC BY 4.0” licence. The CCSM4 model output was downloaded from the Climate Data Gateway at NCAR ( The CMIP6 data were downloaded from the Earth System Grid Federation node (https://esgf‐
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Subject Keywords:Atlantic meridional overturning circulation; global ocean overturning circulation; Indonesian Throughflow
Issue or Number:21
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20201028-081130041
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Sun, S., & Thompson, A. F. (2020). Centennial changes in the Indonesian Throughflow connected to the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation: The ocean's transient conveyor belt. Geophysical Research Letters, 47, e2020GL090615.
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:106316
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:29 Oct 2020 19:11
Last Modified:16 Nov 2021 18:52

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