The Great Ocean Conveyor, also called the thermohaline circulation, has great implications for climate. The conveyor is slow moving but over 30 million cubic meters of water enter the conveyor every second.
Surface water that is warmed at the equator moves to high latitudes where it releases heat to the atmosphere. As a result of this, the water cools and becomes denser and sinks to the bottom of the ocean. Most of the sinking happens in the North Atlantic portion of the conveyor (Atlantic).
The warm waters of the North Atlantic Conveyor Belt are carried north by the Gulf Stream. Once these waters reach Iceland they are very cold and dense. During winter the cold salty water sinks thousands of meters below the surface and form North Atlantic Deep Water. The heat released during the formation of these waters is responsible for the relatively warm temperatures of Western Europe.
If it were not for the Atlantic Conveyor Belt the winters in Europe would be much colder (Suzuki).
American scientists have begun to monitor the Atlantic Ocean and the conveyor belt because if the circulation were to fail there would be a severe and rapid drop in temperature. The amount of heat transported in the Atlantic is enormous. At latitude 24.5 degrees north there is 1,300,000 gigawatts of energy produced. This is equivalent to the power produced by one million nuclear power plants (Atlantic).
Although the Atlantic Conveyor Belt is responsible for the slightly warmer temperatures, it can not be relied on forever. The climate is being forced by greenhouse gas pollution which in turn is trapping the climate in a different state. In the past these effects have happened. 20,000 years ago, at the end of the last ice age, we had periods of warming followed by rapid cooling...