Huge pool of Arctic water to cool Europe
LONDON - Agence France-PresseA 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 Jan 22.
Using satellites to measure sea surface height from 1995 to 2010, scientists from University College London and Britain National Oceanography Center found that the western Arctic sea surface has risen by about 15 cms since 2002.
The volume of fresh water has increased by at least 8,000 cubic km, or about 10 percent 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 US.
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.