New research shows ocean currents are climate ‘hot spots’

• January 31, 2012
Ocean currents and a phytoplankton bloom off Patagonia

Creative Commons: NASA Goddard Photo and Video, 2011

A global study that assesses the temperature change in ocean currents has made two findings – one surprising, the other less so. The unsurprising outcome is that as the Earth’s temperature rises, so does the temps in a collection of major ocean currents; the surprise is that those currents are warming faster than the globe as a whole.

According to the study, published this week in Nature Climate Change, a pattern of warming in the ocean’s long-distance currents has now been identified near Australia, Japan, Africa, and North America. Moreover, the warming is also sending the currents “polewards”, meaning that species migrations already observed in Australia (in which many species are moving southwards at as much as a degree per year) are almost certain to happen on a global scale.

The study, “Enhanced warming over the global subtropical western boundary currents”, aims to identify whether, and to what degree, changes in ocean currents may occur due to anthropogenic greenhouse gas forcing.

The currents are important because on their thousands-of-kilometer journeys redistributing heat from equatorial regions to the mid-latitudes, they also release both heat and moisture into the atmosphere.

Read more: The Register >>


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