How long does it take for the great ocean conveyor belt to complete one cycle?
The blue arrows indicate the path of deep, cold, dense water currents. The red arrows indicate the path of warmer, less dense surface waters. It is estimated that it can take 1,000 years for a "parcel" of water to complete the journey along the global conveyor belt.
The ocean circulation conveyor belt helps balance climate. As part of the ocean conveyor belt, warm water from the tropical Atlantic moves poleward near the surface where it gives up some of its heat to the atmosphere. This process partially moderates the cold temperatures at higher latitudes.
- Ocean currents act much like a conveyer belt, transporting warm water and precipitation from the equator toward the poles and cold water from the poles back to the tropics. Thus, currents regulate global climate, helping to counteract the uneven distribution of solar radiation reaching Earth's surface.
- Increasing salinity also increases the density of sea water. Less dense water floats on top of more dense water. Given two layers of water with the same salinity, the warmer water will float on top of the colder water. Temperature has a greater effect on the density of water than salinity does.
- Deep ocean currents are driven by density and temperature gradients. Thermohaline circulation is also known as the ocean's conveyor belt (which refers to deep ocean density-driven ocean basin currents). These currents, called submarine rivers, flow under the surface of the ocean and are hidden from immediate detection.
A process known as thermohaline circulation, or the ocean conveyor belt, drives these deep underwater currents. Thermohaline Circulation. Thermohaline circulation moves a massive current of water around the globe, from northern oceans to southern oceans, and back again.
- The conveyor belt transfers warm water from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic as a shallow current and returns cold water from the Atlantic to the Pacific as a deep current that flows further south. As it passes Europe, the surface water evaporates and the ocean water cools, releasing heat to the atmosphere.
- Ocean currents can be generated by wind, density differences in water masses caused by temperature and salinity variations, gravity, and events such as earthquakes. Currents are cohesive streams of seawater that circulate through the ocean.
- Thermohaline circulation plays an important role in supplying heat to the polar regions. Therefore, it influences the rate of sea ice formation near the poles, which in turn affects other aspects of the climate system (such as the albedo, and thus solar heating, at high latitudes).
Updated: 4th December 2019