Thermohaline conveyor belt

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by moneygal
Last updated 4 years ago

Cycles & Processes

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Thermohaline conveyor belt

The ocean is in constant motion. You can see this for yourself when you watch waves crash onto shore. If you go swimming, you may even feel an ocean current pulling you along. Surface currents, such as the Gulf Stream, move water across the globe like mighty rivers. Surface currents are powered by the Earth’s various wind patterns.

Thermohaline Conveyor Belt

Thermohaline circulation is a part of the large-scale ocean circulation that is driven by global density gradients created by surface heat and freshwater fluxes.

The thermohaline circulation, often referred to as the ocean's "conveyor belt", links major surface and deep water currents in the Atlantic, Indian, Pacific, and Southern Oceans. Multiple mechanisms conspire to increase the density of surface waters at high latitudes. Cold winds blowing over the oceans chill the waters beneath them. These winds also increase evaporation rates, further removing heat from the water. These chilled waters have increased densities, and thus tend to sink. Formation of sea ice also helps to increase the density of water near Earth's poles.

Thermohaline circulation plays an important role in supplying heat to the polar regions. Therefore the rate of sea ice formation near the poles which in turn affects other aspects of the climate system.

The thermohaline circulation is sometimes called the ocean conveyor belt, the great ocean conveyor, or the global conveyor belt. Moreover, temperature and salinity gradients can also lead to circulation effects that are not included in the MOC itself.


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