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FRESHWATER IN THE ARCTIC OCEAN April 6, 2011

Posted by wmmbb in Natural Environment.
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The accumulation of freshwater in the Arctic Ocean is a source of increased concern in regard to the possible effect on the Gulf Stream’s the moderating influence on the climate of NW Europe.

Steve Connor, Science Editor for The Independent reports:

In the Canada Basin area of the Arctic to the west of Greenland, for instance, scientists are monitoring a huge pool of icy meltwater more than 7,500 cubic kilometres in size, which is about twice the volume of Africa’s Lake Victoria. This pool of cold freshwater, which is less dense than the saltier seawater on which it floats, is being kept in its place by circulating winds.

The scientists are concerned that a sudden change in wind patterns might send this fresher water south via the Labrador Current into the North Atlantic where it could interfere with the complex “thermohaline” ocean circulation. These currents, which keep the warm Gulf Stream flowing towards Britain and the rest of north-west Europe, flow between the sea surface and the seabed and are controlled by the relative saltiness of seawater.

“In the past we know that a sudden change in Atlantic currents has happened because of a relatively sudden release of freshwater into the North Atlantic. We can imagine that it could happen again,” said Benjamin Rabe, of Germany’s Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in Bremerhaven.

“If that amount of freshwater is going to be suddenly released it would influence ocean currents, for instance the thermohaline circulation of the North Atlantic. I think we should definitely look at this further. The thermohaline ocean current has only been monitored for a few years,” he added.

The implication may be that Britain and other parts of NW Europe become colder affecting agriculture and other aspects of human life. The experts quoted in the article hasten to add the outcomes are uncertain. Still climate change does set off chain reactions, setting the dominoes to fall at their tipping points each in their own unknown ways.

UPDATE:

Richard Black at the BBC report the European Geoscience’s Union is suggesting the Arctic could be ice-free by 2016. The finding is based on newly developed computer model.

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