Recent Shifts of Meridional Freshwater Transfer in the Oceans: An Agent for Abrupt Climate Change


OCCI Project Funded: 2002

Proposed Research

The oceans serve both as a global reservoir and agent of redistribution for several important constituents of Earth's climate system: e.g., heat, CO2 and water. We focus here on ocean storage and transport of salt and freshwater—elements which are fundamental to the hydrologic cycle and to the North Atlantic overturning circulation. In the tropics and subtropics, evaporative losses of freshwater exceed precipitation causing the upper ocean to become more saline. At higher latitudes, precipitation exceeds evaporation and upper ocean salinities are considerably lower compared to the subtropics. The ocean's poleward transport of salinity and equatorward return of freshwater act to stabilize the atmospheric hydrologic pathway.