Arctic Freshwater Bulge Worries Scientists

Finding could mean cold temps for Europe

Jan 23, 2012
Outside Magazine

A study published in the journal Nature Geoscience on Sunday has detected a large and growing dome of freshwater in the western Arctic Ocean that could result in colder temperatures in Europe. Scientists from Britain's National Oceanography Centre used satellites to measure sea surface height from 1995 to 2010, revealing an area of the Arctic sea that has risen about 15 centimeters since 2002. Researchers concluded that weakening polar ice and strengthening arctic winds were responsible for speeding up an ocean current known as the Beaufort Gyre, increasing the amount of freshwater taken in to about 10 times the size of Lake Michigan. The study expresses concern that this unusually large amount of freshwater could escape from the gyre and significantly alter ocean currents, resulting in a shift in the Gulf Stream, which has kept Europe warmer than 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, lead author of the study.

Read more at BBC News

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