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Melting Ice in Greenland Could Collapse Major Atlantic Currents

Source: Hakai Magazine/Rebecca Boyle - January 6, 2017 in Environment

Melting Ice in Greenland Could Collapse Major Atlantic Currents
Photo: NASA IceBridge Science Team

In the North Atlantic, east of North America and south of Greenland, the ocean’s upper layers are much warmer than one might presume given the extreme latitude. This unexpected warmth is a product of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), a vitally important system of ocean currents that moves warm salty water northward from the tropics and cold fresher water south. The AMOC looms large in the Earth’s climate: it is responsible for redistributing nutrients throughout the Atlantic Ocean and is a major driving force controlling the climate on both sides of the pond.

Ocean currents all experience fluctuations, which can dramatically change the distribution of nutrients, heat, and fish. The best known example is probably the El Niño-Southern Oscillation, in which unusually warm water occasionally disrupts the Pacific Ocean’s Humboldt Current that flows north from Chile toward Peru. El Niño events can shift the jet stream south, cause excessive rainfall and devastating floods, and temporarily collapse fish stocks.

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Hakai Magazine

Hakai Magazine explores science, society, and the environment from a coastal perspective. The magazine is part of the Tula Foundation and Hakai Institute family. While proudly independent, Hakai Magazine shares the same philosophies as the Tula Foundation, celebrating exploration, discovery, and science. The name Hakai is inspired by the Hakai Lúxvbálís Conservancy, the largest protected marine area on the west coast of Canada, located about 400 kilometers north of Vancouver.

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