Scientists Discover Key Ocean Current Blocked By Seasonal Monsoons

Source: Phys.org/Esprit Smith/NASA

Photo: NASA/Unsplash

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Our oceans and the complex “conveyer belt” system of currents that connects them play an important role in regulating global climate. The oceans store heat from the Sun, and ocean currents transport that heat from the tropics to the poles. They release the heat and moisture into the air, which moderates climate nearby. But what happens if part of that conveyer belt jams?

It’s not a theoretical question. Scientists have observed that a major ocean current called the Indonesia Throughflow, which provides the only tropical connection between the Pacific and Indian oceans, slows dramatically near the surface during the Northwest Asia —usually December through March. And a team of scientists, led by Tong Lee of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, has figured out why.

“We have found that this current, which is a very important element of the global ocean current system, is significantly affected by local precipitation,” Lee said. “It is fairly common knowledge that winds drive ocean currents. In this case, however, the precipitation is actually a dominant factor during the monsoon season.”

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Photo: NASA/Unsplash

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