Thermohaline circulation (THC) is an instance in nature in which oceanic fluctuation of amassity, temperature and sodium matter is observed on a global scale. It is compared to and sometimes called the global conveyor belt due to its high propensity to transport vital environmental ecosystems across the globe. Yet, oceanographers have stated that less than 5% of the worlds' oceans has been explored. THC is also attributed to stratification of the planet's oceanic resources.

The question: Why is THC pivotal to life on Earth?

  • $\begingroup$ What is "amassity"? Do you mean density? $\endgroup$
    – Fred
    Apr 17 '17 at 12:07
  • $\begingroup$ Amassity as in a collective or composite; root 'amass'. "My spelling is Wobbly. It's good spelling but it Wobbles, and the letters get in the wrong places." A.A. Milne $\endgroup$
    – user7384
    Apr 17 '17 at 18:04
  • $\begingroup$ You might want to avoid using THC in the title, as it has a much more common, and quite different, use. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Apr 17 '17 at 18:28
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ A lot of your wording is somewhat confusing. First off, 'amassity' is not in any online dictionary I could find. If you could define the word, that would be great. The phrase 'oceanic fluctuation of...sodium matter' is somewhat confusing also. Are you referring to salinity? To sodium ion concentration? The global conveyer belt doesn't have a 'propensity to transport...ecosystmes'; it does transport water of varying temperatures and salinitiess, along with the micro-organisms in said water, around the globe. The question in the title is clear enough, but the details are murky. $\endgroup$
    – kingledion
    Apr 17 '17 at 18:42
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ "Amassity" isn't a word, and even if you choose to define it as "collective" or "composite", your use of it doesn't make sense: what would an "oceanic fluctuation of collective" mean? (Incidentally, Google turns up a couple of usages of "amassity" on very confused-looking esoteric websites, one of which defines it as "our Effectiveness to Copulate [sic] Extraordinary amounts of Data within Earths Tectonic Fields"... I don't think that definition works in your question either :).) $\endgroup$
    – Pont
    Apr 17 '17 at 19:23

My answer is a bit off topic to your actual question, but addresses something you said:

oceanographers have stated that less than 5% of the worlds' oceans has been explored

I would venture that less than 5% of the ocean floor or deeper ocean depths is perhaps where less than 5% has been explored.

We've really been over the vast majority of the ocean surface at some point (and have tools like satellites that give us significant data on the rest). Here's the current location of floating buoys:

buoys (Argo Website)

It looks pretty comprehensive near the surface! Still, there's often hundreds of miles between sites, so while it means we have\do cover a fair bit of the area (more than 5%!), we aren't everywhere at once.

And it's important to note that a a significant part of thermohaline circulations are near the surface, generally the red areas on this map:


But the big thing to take home is that even where we don't have as much data, we can see the large thermohaline circulations well because of its scale and relative continuity. It's quite comparable to the upper atmosphere, where we also don't get data on large parts of the upper atmosphere, but can rather well diagnose jet stream fluctuations. Here's the upper air sounding network:

(Weatherstem.com upper air observations lesson)

Both networks are aided some by satellite and ship/plane observations, but overall, despite fairly limited observations, the circulations are quite evident because of their size and impacts. So we have a pretty good handle on what's going on.

Hopefully someone else is able to better address your central question about why it is vital to life on Earth!

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks @JeopardyTempest. You mentioned continuities; do you know of any networks or agencies that track discontinuites which separate the stratification layers? $\endgroup$
    – user7384
    Apr 17 '17 at 20:38
  • $\begingroup$ @Habatchii, sorry, in the end, I'm more of a meteorologist. What I do know is that the weather radio here in Florida regularly gives the delineation of the Gulf Stream as being X miles offshore. So I'm thinking the temperature and density of these currents are pretty distinct boundaries, and in active regions like the US are closely tracked with satellite, ship reports, and buoys. Guessing they're pretty important for things like fishing. $\endgroup$ Apr 17 '17 at 20:51
  • $\begingroup$ @Habatchii, as to your actual question about the vital nature of the thermohaline... I'd think it'd relate firstmost to the transport of nutrients that algae thrive on, which are a significant part of the oxygen cycle on Earth. But that'd be just a less knowledgeable guess. Hopefully a few oceanographers are around here! $\endgroup$ Apr 17 '17 at 20:59

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy