ocean circulation, meridional overturning, ocean’s role in climate
The global overturning of ocean waters involves the equatorward transport of cold, deep waters and the poleward transport of warm, near-surface waters. Such movement creates a net poleward transport of heat that, in partnership with the atmosphere, establishes the global and regional climates. Although oceanographers have long assumed that a reduction in deep water formation at high latitudes in the North Atlantic translates into a slowing of the ocean's overturning and hence in Earth's climate, observational and modeling studies over the past decade have called this assumed linkage into question. The observational basis for linking water mass formation with the ocean's meridional overturning is reviewed herein. Understanding this linkage is crucial to efforts aimed at predicting the consequences of the warming and freshening of high-latitude surface waters to the climate system.