by University of Alaska Fairbank, July 12, 2020 in WUWT
New research explores how lower-latitude oceans drive complex changes in the Arctic Ocean, pushing the region into a new reality distinct from the 20th-century norm.
The University of Alaska Fairbanks and Finnish Meteorological Institute led the international effort, which included researchers from six countries. The first of several related papers was published this month in Frontiers in Marine Science.
Climate change is most pronounced in the Arctic. The Arctic Ocean, which covers less than 3% of the Earth’s surface, appears to be quite sensitive to abnormal conditions in lower-latitude oceans.
“With this in mind, the goal of our research was to illustrate the part of Arctic climate change driven by anomalous [different from the norm] influxes of oceanic water from the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean, a process which we refer to as borealization,” said lead author Igor Polyakov, an oceanographer at UAF’s International Arctic Research Center and FMI.
Although the Arctic is often viewed as a single system that is impacted by climate change uniformly, the research stressed that the Arctic’s Amerasian Basin (influenced by Pacific waters) and its Eurasian Basin (influenced by Atlantic waters) tend to differ in their responses to climate change.
Since the first temperature and salinity measurements taken in the late 1800s, scientists have known that cold and relatively fresh water, which is lighter than salty water, floats at the surface of the Arctic Ocean. This fresh layer blocks the warmth of the deeper water from melting sea ice.
IMAGE: A MAP OF THE ARCTIC OCEAN SHOWS THE LOCATION OF THE AMERASIAN AND EURASIAN BASINS. ARROWS SHOW THE PATH OF WARM, FRESH PACIFIC WATER AND WARM, SALTY ATLANTIC WATER INTO… view more CREDIT: GRAPHIC ADAPTED FROM POLYAKOV ET AL. 2020, FRONTIERS IN MARINE SCIENCE PAPER.