Climate Change 2001:
Synthesis Report
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Figure 4-2: Schematic illustration of the global circulation system in the world ocean consisting of major north-south thermohaline circulation routes in each ocean basin joining in the Antarctic circumpolar circulation. Warm surface currents and cold deep currents are connected in the few areas of deepwater formation in the high latitudes of the Atlantic and around Antarctica (blue), where the major ocean-to-atmosphereheat transfer occurs. This current system contributes substantially to the transport and redistribution of heat (e.g., the poleward flowing currents in the North Atlantic warm northwestern Europe by up to 10°C). Model simulations indicate that the North Atlantic branch of this circulation system is particularly vulnerable to changes in atmospheric temperature and in the hydrological cycle. Such perturbations caused by global warming could disrupt the current system, which would have a strong impact on regional-to-hemispheric climate. Note that this is a schematic diagram and it does not give the exact locations of the water currents that form part of the THC.

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