A shutdown in the circulation was associated with the Younger Dryas stadial, also referred to as the Big Freeze, so I'm curious how much warmer Western Europe is due to the MOC, and how much heat (in Joules) the MOC actually releases into the region.

  • $\begingroup$ @plannapus: While the questions are related, I feel the question here is much more focus on the relation to climate fluctuations like the Younger Dryas. $\endgroup$
    – arkaia
    May 12, 2014 at 15:13
  • $\begingroup$ @plannapus They are not duplicates. This question asks how much NW Europe is heated, the other one asks how much more it is heated compared to NE America. Those are related but different questions. $\endgroup$
    – gerrit
    May 13, 2014 at 16:17

1 Answer 1


To answer the numerical aspect of your question: Rintoul & Wunsch 1991 advanced a poleward heat flux in the North Atlantic (i.e. that generated by the Gulf Stream) of $1.3\pm0.2\times 10^{15}W$.

That number of 1.3 PW (PetaWatts) have been reused in several reviews on the thermohaline circulation such as Clark et al. 2002; hinting that this number is at least realistic (since I'm not a physical oceanographer myself it is difficult for me to judge otherwise).

Clark, P. U., Pisias, N. G., Stoecker, T. F., Weaver, A. J. 2002. The role of the thermohaline circulation in abrupt climate change. Nature, 415: 863-869.
Rintoul, S. R., Wunsch, C. 1991.Mass, heat, oxygen and nutrient fluxes and budgets in the North Atlantic Ocean. Deep Sea Research Part A, 38: S355–S377.


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