Modeling the Denmark Strait Overflow

Ha, this is a bad pun. We are modeling the Denmark Strait Overflow – but in a non-numerical, small-scale-and-playdough kind of way.

More than a year ago, Kjetil and I ran that experiment with a group of high-school students and when writing a post about a much more sophisticated version of this experiment I realized I never documented this one in the first place. So here we go!

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The set-up: Tupper ware with a modeling clay ridge (“let’s call it Greenland-Scotland-Ridge”) across, filled with water to a level above the ridge, cooled with a sport’s-injury cooling pack in “the North”.

Dye is added to the “northern end” of the tank (i.e. the end where the water is being cooled by a sport’s injury cooling pack). As the water cools, it becomes denser and fills up the reservoir on the northern end until it spills over the clay ridge.

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The overflow. See the blue, dense reservoir on the left and the dense water spilling over the ridge.

This is a very simple demonstration of how overflows actually work.

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Kjetil, his Master student Eli and some of the high-school students. Can you see the sketch of the Denmark Strait Overflow on the slide in the background? (Plus, for everybody who is interested: This is the food coloring I have been using right there in the front right!)

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