Far beneath the surface of the ocean, deep currents act as conveyer belts, channeling heat, oxygen, carbon and nutrients around the globe.
A new study by the University of Pennsylvania's Irina Marinov and Raffaele Bernardello and colleagues from McGill University has found that recent climate change may be acting to slow down one of these conveyer belts, with potentially serious consequences for the future of the planet's climate.
"Our observations are showing us that there is less formation of these deep waters near Antarctica," Marinov said. "This is worrisome because, if this is the case, we're likely going to see less uptake of human produced, or anthropogenic, heat and carbon dioxide by the ocean, making this a positive feedback loop for climate change."
Marinov is an assistant professor in Penn's School of Arts and Sciences' Department of Earth and Environmental Science, while Bernardello was a postdoctoral investigator in the same department and has just moved to Southampton Oceanographic in the United Kingdom. They collaborated with Casimir de Lavergne, Jaime B. Palter and Eric D. Galbraith of McGill University on the study, which was published in Nature Climate Change.
Oceanographers have noticed that Antarctic Bottom Waters, a massive current of cold, salty and dense water that flows 2,000 meters under the ocean's surface from near the Antarctic coast toward the equator has been shrinking in recent decades. This is cause for concern, as the current is believed to "hide" heat and carbon from the atmosphere. The Southern Ocean takes up approximately 60 percent of the anthropogenic heat produced on Earth and 40 to 50 percent of the anthropogenic carbon dioxide.
"The Southern Ocean is emerging as being very, very important for regulating climate," Marinov said.
Along with colleagues, Marinov used models to discern whether the shrinking of the Antarctic Bottom Waters could be attributed to anth
|Contact: Katherine Unger Baillie|
University of Pennsylvania