The exhaust valve of the North Atlantic

Agatha M. de Boer, Doron Nof

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Citations (Scopus)


During glacial periods, climate records are marked by large-amplitude oscillations believed to be a result of North Atlantic (NA) freshwater anomalies, which weakened the thermohaline circulation (THC) and introduced instabilities. Such oscillations are absent from the present interglacial period. With the aid of a semiglobal analytical model, it is proposed that the Bering Strait (BS) acts like an exhaust valve for the above NA freshwater anomalies. Specifically, it is suggested that large instabilities in the THC are only possible during glacial periods because, during these periods, the BS is closed. During interglacial periods (when the BS, the exhaust valve, is open), low-salinity anomalies are quickly flushed out of the North Atlantic by the strong Southern Ocean winds.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)417-422
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Climate
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2004

Cite this