I am looking at Stommel's Two-Box model of ocean circulation.

I get that deep water formation occurs in the polar regions due to cooling of the water and sinking to the bottom. However, just looking at the box model, it looks like the equatorial regions should actually be more dense since salinity has a stronger effect on the density of the water?

I am trying to come up with an intuitive explanation of the two-box model, but it isn't making sense with salinity (only temperature). I want a way to explain this concept to anyone, but, right now, explaining the impact of salinity in polar vs equatorial regions is throwing me off.



1 Answer 1


In practice in the ocean, density is dominated by temperature, not salinity because the range of salinity is relatively small compared to the range of temperature.

That wouldn't apply with the addition of fresh water or similar; as far as I can interpret those notes, it looks like that's why a large fresh water flux would shut down the circulation (density gradient large enough to outweigh temperature gradient).

The sea surface thermal forcing, which acts in the direction of the present thermohaline circulation in the North Atlantic, is opposite to the haline forcing from the freshwater flux. [From this Introduction section.]


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