The Thermohaline Circulation - The Great Ocean Conveyor Belt
- Visualizations by:
- Greg Shirah
- View full credits
This animation shows one of the major regions where this pumping occurs, the North Atlantic Ocean around Greenland, Iceland, and the North Sea. The surface ocean current brings new water to this region from the South Atlantic via the Gulf Stream and the water returns to the South Atlantic via the North Atlantic Deep Water current. The continual influx of warm water into the North Atlantic polar ocean keeps the regions around Iceland and southern Greenland mostly free of sea ice year round.
The animation also shows another feature of the global ocean circulation: the Antarctic Circumpolar Current. The region around latitude 60 south is the the only part of the Earth where the ocean can flow all the way around the world with no land in the way. As a result, both the surface and deep waters flow from west to east around Antarctica. 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 and the surface circulation to close 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 Sea Surface Temperature, Salinity and Density). The depths of the oceans are highly exaggerated to better illustrate the differences between the surface flows and deep water flows. The actual flows in this model are based on current theories of the thermohaline circulation rather than actual data. The thermohaline circulation is a very slow moving current that can be difficult to distinguish from general ocean circulation. Therefore, it is difficult to measure or simulate.
Please give credit for this item to:
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio The Blue Marble Next Generation data is courtesy of Reto Stockli (NASA/GSFC) and NASA's Earth Observatory.
- Greg Shirah (NASA/GSFC) [Lead]
- Helen-Nicole Kostis (USRA)
- Horace Mitchell (NASA/GSFC)
- Susan Lozier (Duke University)
- Ryan Fitzgibbons (KBRwyle)
MissionsThis visualization is related to the following missions:
SeriesThis visualization can be found in the following series:
Datasets used in this visualization
Terra Bathymetry (Collected with the MODIS sensor)
Terra and Aqua BMNG (A.K.A. Blue Marble: Next Generation) (Collected with the MODIS sensor)
Credit: The Blue Marble data is courtesy of Reto Stockli (NASA/GSFC).
Dataset can be found at: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Newsroom/BlueMarble/See more visualizations using this data set
Note: While we identify the data sets used in these visualizations, we do not store any further details nor the data sets themselves on our site.