Thermohaline circulation a little-understood climate driver

Earth's history is replete with wide-ranging climate changes. Analysis of ice core data from Greenland and Antarctica provide evidence that global temperatures have oscillated no fewer than 20 times between glacial and interglacial conditions during the last 110,000 years. Temperatures may have changed by as much as 15° C. during a single cycle. Furthermore, these changes were abrupt, occurring within a few centuries or even decades. Thermohaline circulation, or the "oceanic conveyor belt," as some researchers describe it, transfers equatorial heat poleward, where the waters of increasing salinity cool, sink into the abyss, and return at depth. Waters upwell in some regions of the...

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