Schematic representation of the global thermohaline circulation.

We have foundthat there are two distinct mechanisms that can cause non-linear transitionsin the state of the Atlantic ocean circulation, a 'fast' and a 'slow' mechanism.

Note that this map presents globalthermohaline circulation as it presently exists.

The continual influx of warm water into the North Atlantic polar ocean keeps the regions around Iceland and southern Greenland generally free of sea ice year round.The animation also shows another feature of the global ocean circulation: the Antarctic Circumpolar Current.


The thermohaline circulation consists of:

1) is that part of the ocean circulation which is driven by density differences.

Other model scenariosfor a greenhouse world generally show a reduction in thermohaline circulationbetween 20% and 50% for a carbon dioxide doubling in the atmosphere (Rahmstorf1997).


Yes, the Ocean Has Warmed; No, It’s Not ‘Global Warming’

During theIce Age, the primary driving force of global thermohaline circulationmay have switched back and forth between the waters of the NorthAtlantic and those of Antarctica.

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As the density forcing occurs at the surface (see above), a subtle question is why the density differences and the circulation affect the whole ocean depth and are not confined to a near-surface layer.

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The term thermohaline circulationdescribes the driving forces: the temperature (thermo) and salinity (haline)of sea water, which determine the water density differences which ultimatelydrive the flow.

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This circumpolar motion links the world's oceans and allows the deep water circulation from the Atlantic to rise in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, thereby closing the surface circulation with the northward flow in the Atlantic.The color on the world's ocean's at the beginning of this animation represents surface water density, with dark regions being most dense and light regions being least dense (see the animation ).

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It has been shown that in the long-term equilibrium the strength of the thermohaline circulation in models depends on the turbulent mixing coefficient [7], and that the energy required for this turbulent mixing comes to a large extent from the moon via tidal currents ([8]).

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This circumpolar motion links the world's oceans and allows the deep water circulation from the Atlantic to rise in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, thereby closing the surface circulation with the northward flow in the Atlantic.The color on the world's ocean's at the beginning of this animation represents surface water density, with dark regions being most dense and light regions being least dense (see the animation ).