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Why is thermohaline circulation so important?

Gallery Thermohaline Circulation Hero Canuckguy, Robert Simmon, NASA and Robert A. Rohde

This map shows the pattern of thermohaline circulation, which is responsible for the large-scale exchange of water masses in the ocean. It is called thermohaline circulation as it is driven by different densities of waters falling and rising. These differences in density are caused by the temperature (thermo-) and saltiness (-haline) of the water.

The red arrows show warm surface waters, which then cool and sink in the Arctic, creating a dragging effect that drives this whole ocean conveyor. The entire circulation pattern takes roughly 2,000 years.

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