Warm World Ocean Thermohaline Circulation Model

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Nikita Zimov and Sergei A Zimov, Northeast Scientific Station, Cherskiy, Russia
Modern day ocean circulation is dominated by thermal convection with cold waters subsiding in the Northern Atlantic, filling the ocean interior with cold and heavy water. However, ocean circulation diminished during the last glaciation and consequently the downwelling of the cold. Therefore interior ocean water temperatures must have been affected by other mechanisms which are negligible in the current state. We propose that the submergence of highly saline water from warm seas with high rates of evaporation (like the Red or Mediterranean Sea) was a major factor controlling ocean circulation during the last glaciation. Even today, waters in these poorly connected seas are the heaviest waters in the World ocean (1.029 g/cm3). The second mechanism affecting ocean temperature is the geothermal heat flux. With no heat exchange between the atmosphere and the ocean, geothermal heat flux through the ocean floor is capable of increasing ocean temperature by tens of degrees C over a 100 thousand year glacial cycle.

To support these hypotheses we present an ocean box model that describes thermohaline circulation in the World Ocean. According to the model parameters, all water circulation is driven by the water density gradient. Boxes include high-latitude seas, high salinity seas, surface ocean, glaciers, and rift and lateral zones of the ocean interior. External heat sources are radiative forcing, affected by Milankovich cycles, and geothermal heat flux. Additionally this model accounts for the heat produced by organic rain decay.

Taking all input parameters close to currently observed values, the model manages to recreate the glacial-interglacial cycles. During the glacial periods only haline circulation takes place, the ocean is strongly stratified, and the interior ocean accumulates heat while high-latitudes accumulate ice. 112,000 years after glaciation starts, water density on the ocean bottom becomes equal to the density of water in high-latitude seas, strong thermal convection takes placeand the ocean quickly (within 14,600 years) releases the heat.

To our knowledge, this current hypothesis is the only one capable of giving the explanation for the abrupt 25 degree C increase in atmospheric temperature in Greenland during the last deglaciation.