Atlantic-Pacific Asymmetry in Deep Water Formation

David Ferreira, Paola Cessi, Helen K. Coxall, Agatha De Boer, Henk A. Dijkstra, Sybren S. Drijfhout, Tor Eldevik, Nili Harnik, Jerry F. McManus, David P. Marshall, Johan Nilsson, Fabien Roquet, Tapio Schneider, Robert C. Wills

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


While the Atlantic Ocean is ventilated by high-latitude deep water formation and exhibits a pole-To-pole overturning circulation, the Pacific Ocean does not. This asymmetric global overturning pattern has persisted for the past 2-3 million years, with evidence for different ventilation modes in the deeper past. In the current climate, the Atlantic-Pacific asymmetry occurs because the Atlantic is more saline, enabling deep convection. To what extent the salinity contrast between the two basins is dominated by atmospheric processes (larger net evaporation over the Atlantic) or oceanic processes (salinity transport into the Atlantic) remains an outstanding question. Numerical simulations have provided support for both mechanisms; observations of the present climate support a strong role for atmospheric processes as well as some modulation by oceanic processes. A major avenue for future work is the quantification of the various processes at play to identify which mechanisms are primary in different climate states.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)327-352
Number of pages26
JournalAnnual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences
StatePublished - 30 May 2018


  • meridional overturning circulation, salinity, hydrological cycle, multiple equilibria, climate, deep water formation

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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