• thermohaline circulation asymmetries;
  • sea-surface salinity;
  • North Pacific Deep Water;
  • monsoons;
  • atmospheric freshwater transports

[1] Warren's [1983] “Why is no deep water formed in the North Pacific” is revisited. His box model of the northern North Pacific is used with updated estimates of oceanic volume transports and boundary freshwater fluxes derived from the most recent data sets, using diverse methods. Estimates of the reliability of the result and its sensitivity to error in the data are given, which show that the uncertainty is dominated by the large observational error in the freshwater fluxes, especially the precipitation rate. Consistent with Warren's conclusions, it is found that the subpolar Atlantic-Pacific salinity contrast is primarily explained by the small circulation exchange between the subpolar and subtropical gyres, and by the local excess of precipitation over evaporation in the northern North Pacific. However, unlike Warren, we attribute the latter excess to atmospheric water vapor transports, in particular the northern moisture flux associated with the Asian Monsoon. Thus the absence of such a large transport over the subpolar North Atlantic may partly explain why it is so salty, and why deep water can form there and not in the North Pacific.