Influence of Mediterranean Outflow on climate



A cover article in Eos last year [Johnson, 1997] called for a dam across the Strait of Gibraltar to prevent a new Ice Age. In this article, R. G. Johnson argued that reduced Nile River flow after building the Aswan Dam increases Mediterranean Sea salinity, leading to enhanced outflow of salty water into the Atlantic Ocean. This, in turn, would alter the thermohaline (that is, temperature and salinity driven) circulation of the Atlantic, heat up the Labrador Sea and enhance evaporation there, and increase snowfall in Canada until a new ice sheet builds up. Ocean circulation model experiments, however, suggest that this fear is unfounded. While Mediterranean saltwater outflow (Figure 1a) does appear to have some effect on North Atlantic circulation and surface climate, the change in Mediterranean salt budget resulting from the Aswan Dam is far too small to have any noticeable impact.