Consider an earth analog but with different land mass distribution and shallow seas.

If the seas are at just epipelagic depth, what would change energy-transport-wise? If the land mass can have arbitrary distribution, can I still get a stable temperature climate even without deep ocean mechanisms e.g., Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC)?

For example, I can reduce the axial tilt, put 10km plus mountain range and glaciers near the equator to reduce thermal gradient vs the poles, and use large freshwater basins to moderate inland climate. But all this has to function without heat transport by deep oceans.


2 Answers 2


Without deep oceans, I would expect that heat transportation would rely heavily on surface currents and atmospheric mechanisms, potentially causing less efficient heat transfer from equatorial regions to the poles and more extreme temperature gradients.

Introducing a reduced axial tilt, high mountain ranges, and large freshwater basins could help in creating a more stable, but way different than that of Earth's, climate by reducing seasonal severity, creating microclimates, and moderate inland temperatures.

I would worry about a runaway greenhouse effect. It could be triggered by increased water vapor in the atmosphere from enhanced evaporation, potentially leading to a self-sustaining warming cycle.

  • $\begingroup$ Would the shallow waters not cause a more rapid heat transfer? Since the heat sink is not so "deep" heat from the equator would move to the poles far quicker. From this I would expect fluctuation in weather cycles to be more rapid from losing the moderating effect we benefit from and thus more violent overall. $\endgroup$
    – Gillgamesh
    Jan 25 at 16:26
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Gillgamesh good point but in the scenario with shallow oceans, I worry a lot about evaporation. Like you said, initially the oceans would warm up fast but then I think evaporation and winds may make the oceans perish. But I thought of the whole thing as a physicist. A geologist would be more appropriate to answer our concerns. $\endgroup$
    – cconsta1
    Jan 25 at 16:35
  • $\begingroup$ @Gillgamesh this is potentially on the right track. Everyday after the sunrise the equator land and sea heats up rapidly but within acceptable range, lots of seawater evaporates and transports the heat contained with in towards the poles rapidly dictated by a certain collage of micro climate instead of global circulation. Results are more precipitation, increased cloud coverage near the equator, coupled with the right west east mountain range i can have a temperature and moist mid to high latitude. $\endgroup$ Jan 25 at 16:57
  • $\begingroup$ @MeatballPrincess No issue with this take. I was more thinking of the broader ocean currents and gyres that distribute heat on earth within the water column. Ex: if the Atlantic were shallow, the Gulf Stream would dump its heat far quicker as it moved north. Nordic countries in this case would be far far cooler (in a surface level analysis). Also Average changes in ocean temp would vary much quicker, re: El Nino / El Nina . $\endgroup$
    – Gillgamesh
    Jan 25 at 17:16
  • $\begingroup$ @Gillgamesh there's another trick: i can also make the ocean floor darker towards the poles, remember the ocean floor is just at epipelagic depth. I think there's potentiall a goldilock zone between just enough thermal gradient for strong winds to transport moisture and heat and too much that causes super storms, and the ocean floor trick can take the load off of air transport. $\endgroup$ Jan 25 at 17:28

Our Earth's climate depends on so many things that almost every computer model is flawed in one way or another. Landmass to ocean ratio, albedo, salinity, chemistry of the atmosphere to name just a few important parameters.

That being said, every system tries to reach a state of equilibrium so even without super deep oceans your world's climate would reach its very own equilibrium at some point. The heat transfer would be different, the heat distribution across the globe would be different. You might end up with a very steep gradient between your poles and your equatorial regions due to the lack of an effective heat transfer resulting in strong winds. Warm winds might occur in the north and south but that would have to be very steady winds to warm up the otherwise cold pole regions.

Another factor to consider is the distribution of landmass around the equatorial regions where you would have high sun intensity.


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