Thermohaline circulation (THC) is a part of the large-scale ocean circulation that is driven by global density gradients created by surface heat and freshwater fluxes. The adjective thermohaline derives from thermo- referring to temperature and -haline referring to salt content, factors which together determine the density of sea water. Wind-driven surface currents (such as the Gulf Stream) travel polewards from the equatorial Atlantic Ocean, cooling en route, and eventually sinking at high latitudes (forming North Atlantic Deep Water). This dense water then flows into the ocean basins. While the bulk of it upwells in the Southern Ocean, the oldest waters (with a transit time of about 1000 years) upwell in the North Pacific. Extensive mixing therefore takes place between the ocean basins, reducing differences between them and making the Earth's oceans a global system. The water in these circuits transport both energy (in the form of heat) and mass (dissolved solids and gases) around the globe. As such, the state of the circulation has a large impact on the climate of the Earth.
The thermohaline circulation is sometimes called the ocean conveyor belt, the great ocean conveyor, or the global conveyor belt, coined by climate scientist Wallace Smith Broecker. On occasion, it is used to refer to the meridional overturning circulation (often abbreviated as MOC). The term MOC is more accurate and well defined,[clarification needed] as it is difficult to separate the part of the circulation which is driven by temperature and salinity alone as opposed to other factors such as the wind and tidal forces. Moreover, temperature and salinity gradients can also lead to circulation effects that are not included in the MOC itself.
The Atlantic Meridional Overturning circulation (AMOC) is part of a global thermohaline circulation.