An experimental study of the Atlantic variability on interdecadal timescales
Abstract. A series of laboratory experiments has been carried out to model the basic dynamics of the multidecadal variability observed in North Atlantic sea surface temperature (SST) records. According to the minimal numerical sector model introduced by te Raa and Dijkstra (2002), the three key components to excite such a low-frequency variability are rotation, meridional temperature gradient and additive thermal noise in the surface heat forcing. If these components are present, periodic perturbations of the overturning background flow are excited, leading to thermal Rossby mode like propagation of anomalous patches in the SST field. Our tabletop scale setup was built to capture this phenomenon, and to test whether the aforementioned three components are indeed sufficient to generate a low-frequency variability in the system. The results are compared to those of the numerical models, as well as to oceanic SST reanalysis records. To the best of our knowledge, the experiment described here is the very first to investigate the dynamics of the North Atlantic multidecadal variability in a laboratory-scale setup.