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The Exhaust Valve of the North Atlantic

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  • 1 Department of Oceanography, The Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida
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Abstract

During glacial periods, climate records are marked by large-amplitude oscillations believed to be a result of North Atlantic (NA) freshwater anomalies, which weakened the thermohaline circulation (THC) and introduced instabilities. Such oscillations are absent from the present interglacial period. With the aid of a semiglobal analytical model, it is proposed that the Bering Strait (BS) acts like an exhaust valve for the above NA freshwater anomalies. Specifically, it is suggested that large instabilities in the THC are only possible during glacial periods because, during these periods, the BS is closed. During interglacial periods (when the BS, the exhaust valve, is open), low-salinity anomalies are quickly flushed out of the North Atlantic by the strong Southern Ocean winds.

Current affiliation: Atmospheric and Ocean Sciences Program, Princeton University/GFDL, Princeton, New Jersey

Additional affiliation: Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Institute, The Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida

Corresponding author address: Dr. Doron Nof, Department of Oceanography 4320, The Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL 32306-4320. Email: nof@ocean.fsu.edu

Abstract

During glacial periods, climate records are marked by large-amplitude oscillations believed to be a result of North Atlantic (NA) freshwater anomalies, which weakened the thermohaline circulation (THC) and introduced instabilities. Such oscillations are absent from the present interglacial period. With the aid of a semiglobal analytical model, it is proposed that the Bering Strait (BS) acts like an exhaust valve for the above NA freshwater anomalies. Specifically, it is suggested that large instabilities in the THC are only possible during glacial periods because, during these periods, the BS is closed. During interglacial periods (when the BS, the exhaust valve, is open), low-salinity anomalies are quickly flushed out of the North Atlantic by the strong Southern Ocean winds.

Current affiliation: Atmospheric and Ocean Sciences Program, Princeton University/GFDL, Princeton, New Jersey

Additional affiliation: Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Institute, The Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida

Corresponding author address: Dr. Doron Nof, Department of Oceanography 4320, The Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL 32306-4320. Email: nof@ocean.fsu.edu

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