Climate Dynamics

, Volume 22, Issue 5, pp 527–538 | Cite as

Stability of the glacial thermohaline circulation and its dependence on the background hydrological cycle

  • V. RomanovaEmail author
  • M. Prange
  • G. Lohmann


Different reconstructions of glacial sea-surface temperatures (SST) are used to force a hybrid coupled atmosphere–ocean model. The resulting glacial states differ in global salinity and temperature distributions, and consequently in the strength of the thermohaline circulation. Stability analysis of the Atlantic Ocean circulation, by means of freshwater-flux hysteresis maps, reveals mono-stability for each glacial background state, which appears to be a robust feature of the glacial ocean. We show that this behaviour is directly linked to the hydrological cycle. A monotonic relation between the freshwater input necessary for reaching the off-mode and the hydrological budget in the Atlantic catchment area, accounts for the sensitivity of the ocean’s circulation. The most sensitive part of the hydrological balance appears to be in the tropical and subtropical regions suggesting that the ‘Achilles heel’ of the global conveyor belt circulation is not restricted to the northern North Atlantic where convection occurs.


Last Glacial Maximum Atmospheric General Circulation Model Freshwater Flux North Atlantic Deep Water Freshwater Transport 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We gratefully acknowledge the comments and suggestions of Andre Paul, Christian Schäfer-Neth and Klaus Grosfeld, and Andreas Manschke and Silke Schubert for technical support. We also thank the reviewers for constructive comments. The study was funded by the BMBF through DEKLIM project Climate transitions and by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft as a part of the DFG Research Centre ‘Ocean Margins’ of the University of Bremen (No. RCOMO127).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag  2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Geoscience Department University of BremenBremenGermany
  2. 2.DFG Research Center Ocean Margins (RCOM)University of BremenBremenGermany

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