Ocean angular momentum signals in a climate model and implications for Earth rotation

Author: Rui M. Ponte, Jayendran Rajamony and J.M. Gregory
Date: 
February 2, 2002
Type: 
Journal Article
Venue: 
Climate Dynamics
Citation: 

Ponte, R.M., J. Rajamony, and J.M. Gregory, 2002. Ocean angular momentum signals in a climate model and implications for Earth rotation, Climate Dynamics, 19, 181--190.

Estimates of ocean angular momentum (OAM) provide an integrated measure of variability in ocean circulation and mass fields and can be directly related to observed changes in Earth rotation. We use output from a climate model to calculate 240 years of 3-monthly OAM values (two equatorial terms L1 and L2, related to polar motion or wobble, and axial term L3, related to length of day variations) representing the period 1860-2100. Control and forced runs permit the study of the effects of natural and anthropogenically forced climate variability on OAM. All OAM components exhibit a clear annual cycle, with large decadal modulations in amplitude, and also longer period fluctuations, all associated with natural climate variability in the model. Anthropogenically induced signals, inferred from the differences between forced and control runs, include an upward trend in L3, related to inhomogeneous ocean warming and increases in the transport of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, and a significantly weaker seasonal cycle in L2 in the second half of the record, related primarily to changes in seasonal bottom pressure variability in the Southern Ocean and North Pacific. Variability in mass fields is in general more important to OAM signals than changes in circulation at the seasonal and longer periods analyzed. Relation of OAM signals to changes in surface atmospheric forcing are discussed. The important role of the oceans as an excitation source for the annual, Chandler and Markowitz wobbles, is confirmed. Natural climate variability in OAM and related excitation is likely to measurably affect the Earth rotation, but anthropogenically induced effects are comparatively weak.