Pool of Arctic water could cool Europe

2012-01-22 22:35

London - A huge pool of fresh water in the Arctic Ocean is expanding and could lower the temperature of Europe by causing an ocean current to slow down, British scientists said on Sunday.

Using satellites to measure sea surface height from 1995 to 2010, scientists from University College London and Britain's National Oceanography Centre found that the western Arctic's sea surface has risen by about 150mm since 2002.

The volume of fresh water has increased by at least 8 000kmĀ³, or about 10% of all the fresh water in the Arctic Ocean. The fresh water comes from melting ice and river run-off.

The rise could be due to strong Arctic winds increasing an ocean current called the Beaufort Gyre, making the sea surface bulge upwards.

The Beaufort Gyre is one of the least understood bodies of water on the planet. It is a slowly swirling body of ice and water north of Alaska, about 10 times bigger than Lake Michigan in the United States.

Some scientists believe the natural rhythms of the gyre could be affected by global warming which could have serious implications for the ocean's circulation and rising sea levels.

Climate models have suggested that wind blowing on the surface of the sea has formed a raised dome in the middle of the Beaufort Gyre, but there have been few in-depth studies to confirm this.

If the wind changes direction, which happened between the mid-1980s to mid-1990s, the pool of fresh water could spill out into the rest of the Arctic Ocean and even into the north Atlantic Ocean, the study said.

This could cool Europe by slowing down an ocean current coming from the Gulf Stream, which keeps Europe relatively mild compared with countries at similar latitudes.

"Our findings suggest that a reversal of the wind could result in the release of this fresh water to the rest of the Arctic Ocean and even beyond," said Katharine Giles at UCL's Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling and lead author of the study, published in the journal Nature Geoscience.

The team plans to investigate further the relationship between sea-ice cover and wind changes.

  • @RossWZA - 2012-01-23 00:37

    Europe is cold enough already.

  • Francois Swais Fonternel - 2012-01-23 02:15

    This is good cuz we running outta fresh water... Humans can overcome heat and cold but cannot live without water

      David - 2012-01-23 06:03

      surely you aren't serious....? this is not fresh water we will be able to utilize. it is in the ocean and sinking to the bottom, this is what they fear might stop the usual current.

      ivan.coetzee2 - 2012-01-23 06:45

      You kidding Francois, rite???? How doff can a person get

      Wade - 2012-01-23 08:17

      LOL hahahahahahah. that made my day!!!!

      J-Man - 2012-01-23 10:45

      Ja nee....

  • aruan999 - 2012-01-23 03:49

    There are many more factors than jut those mentioned herein. This could, that could, but then, a heat release valve from beneath earth could stop emitting heat...and then the Annunaki might decide to land on the North Pole. More guesses?

      Nibiru - 2012-01-23 07:01

      We have not decided yet

      uwe.klopfer - 2012-01-23 09:33

      it wont matter... remember its 2012... :P

  • Trevor - 2012-01-23 10:35

    Its nice to have a sense of humuor when your brain cant comprehend the implications of what is on topic !

  • ludlowdj - 2012-01-23 10:43

    I love the way they throw figures around, apart from the differences caused by tides, the moon, storms, winds etc, an increase in the worlds ocean, And yes as all oceans are connected we can refer to them collectively as a single entity, any increase in the ocean level is universal, and with all due respect we have not had a 15 cm rise in ocean levels since 2002. Water as a fluid with also move to balance itself so this fresh water patch will be soon become a cold salt water patch, and even then there is nothing we can do to change the outcome.

  • craig.a.salter - 2012-01-23 11:13

    Global warming is putting Santa out of work unless he makes a Atlantis workshop lol

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