Background Info

The "ocean conveyor belt" is a common name for thermohaline circulation. Thermo means "having to do with temperature and haline means "having to do with salt."

The ocean conveyor belt system moves water from the cold, salty, and nutrient-rich waters of the Arctic and Antarctic to the warmer waters of the tropical ocean.

The currents that move ocean water from one ocean to another are powerful streams of water that generally flow in one direction. Currents, such as the Gulf Stream (which carries warm water from the Gulf of Mexico up the U.S. East Coast) are influenced by factors such as winds, temperature, the depth of the ocean, shape of the seafloor, and even the rotation of the Earth!



What is an ocean current?

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A stream of continuously flowing water in a prevailing direction.


What are factors that affect ocean currents?

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Some of the factors that affect ocean currents are wind, depth, the rotation of the Earth, the gravitational pull of the moon, water temperature, the shape of the ocean floor.

For Further Exploration


Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry



steady, predictable flow of fluid within a larger body of that fluid.

Encyclopedic Entry: current



large body of salt water that covers most of the Earth.

Encyclopedic Entry: ocean

ocean conveyor belt


system in which water moves between the cold depths and warm surface in oceans throughout the world. Also called thermohaline circulation.

Encyclopedic Entry: ocean conveyor belt

thermohaline circulation


ocean conveyor belt system in which water moves between the cold depths and warm surface in oceans throughout the world.


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Mary Crooks, National Geographic Society


Caryl-Sue, National Geographic Society


Mary Crooks, National Geographic Society

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