Climate Change Indicator: Arctic Ocean Getting Warmer, Becoming More Like The Atlantic

2017-04-07T13:48:07+00:00 April 7, 2017|
A warming Arctic Ocean. (Photo credit: NOAA)

(Click to enlarge) A warming Arctic Ocean. (Photo credit: NOAA)

A large international team of researchers has found another troubling indicator of climate change: the Arctic Ocean around the North Pole is getting warmer, and in the process, becoming more like the Atlantic Ocean to its south. Specifically, the eastern Eurasian Basin is now more ice-free and showing mixing of vertical layers of water, a phenomenon common in the Atlantic.

(From International Business Times / By Himanshu Goenka) — Record-breaking loss of sea ice has become a common feature in the Arctic every summer the last 10 years or so. Since 2011, the eastern Eurasian Basin region has been nearly free of ice at the end of every summer.

In a statement issued Thursday, the American Association for the Advancement of Science said the changes in the Arctic Ocean “will have substantial impact on other components of the Arctic Ocean system. For example, it will likely enhance atmosphere-ocean interactions that affect the ocean’s heat storage and currents, change freshwater storage and export patterns, alter Arctic ecosystems and possibly change the ocean’s response to acidification.”

The researchers, led by Igor V. Polyakov from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, published a study that appeared in the journal Science under the title “Greater role for Atlantic inflows on sea-ice loss in the Eurasian Basin of the Arctic Ocean.” In the study, they say: “This encroaching ‘atlantification’ of the Eurasian Basin represents an essential step toward a new Arctic climate state, with a substantially greater role for Atlantic inflows.”

Offering a simpler explanation, Polyakov said in the statement that the number of distinct layers, as defined by temperature and salinity, in the ocean had reduced. The consequent increased mixing of nutrients among the layers could lead to changes in the local ecosystem. Also, as the warmer water from the deeper layers mixes more with the cooler layer traditionally on top, it hinders the formation of ice, even in winter months.

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