Deconstructing the conveyor belt.
For the past several decades, oceanographers have embraced the dominant paradigm that the ocean's meridional overturning circulation operates like a conveyor belt, transporting cold waters equatorward at depth and warm waters poleward at the surface. Within this paradigm, the conveyor, driven by changes in deepwater production at high latitudes, moves deep waters and their attendant properties continuously along western boundary currents and returns surface waters unimpeded to deepwater formation sites. A number of studies conducted over the past few years have challenged this paradigm by revealing the vital role of the ocean's eddy and wind fields in establishing the structure and variability of the ocean's overturning. Here, we review those studies and discuss how they have collectively changed our view of the simple conveyor-belt model.
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