Asymmetry of the ocean’s thermohaline circulation

The ocean is highly turbulent. Pathways of free-floating buoys are chaotic and circulation patterns are dominated by mesoscale eddies – the ocean’s equivalent to atmospheric storms. The ocean is at the same time organised.

Substances injected into the ocean follow broad and distinct routes near the sea surface from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean. As a result the North Pacific and North Atlantic Ocean’s are in marked contrast. The Pacific is cold and fresh and the Atlantic is warm and salty. Known as the thermohaline circulation, this helps maintain Europe’s relatively mild climate.

This project will explore the link between the asymmetry in northern hemisphere climates, the thermohaline circulation and the atmospheric forcing which sets the eventual temperature and salinity of sea-water. The project will pivot on the hypothesis that, by accident of geography and the position of southern hemisphere winds, warm saline water preferentially flows into the Atlantic. Moreover these effects will dictate the stability of the thermohaline circulation and European climate over coming centuries.

This project is supervised by Dr Jan Zika (UNSW Sydney). Please contact j.zika@unsw.edu.au for more information.

Submit your application by Oct 26 2018 for commencement in Term 1, 2019.

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