What is the period of the thermohaline circulation in the ocean? Obviously, individual particles may take longer or shorter, but what is the average for a small water parcel to do a full loop and end up back in the same place?


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According to NOAA It takes almost a 1000 years to complete a cycle. I am not sure how accurate, or where the citation came from their information so take it with a grain of salt. Lecture notes from one of Columbia University's 2007 "The Climate System" class suggests this process takes between 100-1000 years. This paper says Thermohaline Circulation overturns deep water every 600 years or so.

  • $\begingroup$ I've heard 4000 years in a lecture series last week (so I have no quote). $\endgroup$
    – gerrit
    Apr 16, 2014 at 3:25
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, the papers cite a time period that I thought quite low. Perhaps I am referencing something different? $\endgroup$
    – Neo
    Apr 16, 2014 at 3:59

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