Freshwater Transport By The Ocean

The ocean and atmosphere must move freshwater from regions of excess rainfall to regions with excess evaporation (see Fig. 11.6). Knowledge of water fluxes and transports in the ocean is important for understanding the global hydrological cycle and climate. For example, variability in fresh water fluxes may have played an important role in the ice ages, as will be discussed in Chapter 12. The plot of evaporation minus precipitation in Fig. 11.6 shows that evaporation exceeds precipitation by more than a meter per year in the trade wind regimes in the eastern parts of the oceans. Here dry air subsides along the poleward edges of the Hadley Cell. The ITCZ is a region of vigorous updrafts and here precipitation exceeds evaporation. As discussed in Chapter 9, these broad patterns of E and P are reflected in the surface salinity distribution of the oceans (see Fig. 9.4).

The transport of fresh water by the ocean can be calculated using the same methods as for heat transport—again there is considerable uncertainty in these estimates. Fig. 11.32 shows an estimate of the meridional transport of freshwater by the Atlantic Ocean. We see that freshwater transport is southwards,

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