In this activity for undergraduate students, learners build a highly simplified computer model of thermohaline circulation in the North Atlantic Ocean and conduct a set of simulation experiments to understand the complex dynamics inherent in this simple model.

This NASA animation depicts thermohaline circulation in the ocean and how it relates to salinity and water density. It illustrates the sinking of water in the cold, dense ocean near Iceland and Greenland. The surface of the ocean then fades away and the animation pulls back to show the global thermohaline circulation system.