Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Newly discovered Icelandic current could change climate picture

Current called North Icelandic Jet contributes to key component of ocean circulation

If you'd like to cool off fast in hot summer weather, take a dip in a newly discovered ocean current called the North Icelandic Jet (NIJ).

You'd need to be far, far below the sea's surface near Iceland, however, to reach it.

Scientists have confirmed the presence of the NIJ, a deep-ocean circulation system off Iceland. It could significantly influence the ocean's response to climate change.

The NIJ contributes to a key component of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), critically important for regulating Earth's climate.

As part of the planet's reciprocal relationship between ocean circulation and climate, the AMOC transports warm surface water to high latitudes where the water warms the air, then cools, sinks and returns toward the equator as a deep flow.

Crucial to this warm-to-cold oceanographic choreography is the Denmark Strait Overflow Water (DSOW), the largest of the deep, overflow plumes that feed the lower limb of the AMOC and return the dense water south through gaps in the Greenland-Scotland Ridge.

For years it has been thought that the primary source of the Denmark Overflow was a current adjacent to Greenland known as the East Greenland Current.

However, this view was recently called into question by two oceanographers from Iceland who discovered a deep current flowing southward along the continental slope of Iceland.

They named the current the North Icelandic Jet and hypothesized that it formed a significant part of the overflow water.

Now, in a paper published in the August 21st online issue of the journal Nature Geoscience, the team of researchers--including the two Icelanders who discovered the current--has confirmed that the Icelandic Jet is not only a major contributor to the DSOW but "is the primary source of the densest overflow water."

"We present the first comprehensive measurements of the NIJ," said Robert Pickart of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Instititution in Massachusetts, one of the co-authors of the paper.

"Our data demonstrate that the NIJ indeed carries overflow water into Denmark Strait and is distinct from the East Greenland Current. The NIJ constitutes approximately half of the total overflow transport and nearly all of the densest component."

The researchers used a numerical model to hypothesize where and how the NIJ is formed.

"These results implicate water mass transformation and exchange near Iceland as central contributors to the deep limb of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, and raise new questions about how global ocean circulation will respond to future climate change," said Eric Itsweire, program director in the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF)'s Division of Ocean Sciences, which funded the research.

"We've identified a new paradigm," Pickart said, likely a new, overturning loop of warm to cold water.

The results, Pickart says, have "important ramifications" for ocean circulation's impact on climate.

Scientists have been concerned that this overturning loop--some call it a conveyor belt--is slowing down due to a rise in global temperatures.

They suggest that increasing amounts of fresh water from melting ice and other warming-related phenomena are making their way into the northern North Atlantic, where it could freeze and decrease the need for the loop to deliver as much warm water as it does now.

Eventually, this could lead to a colder climate in the northern hemisphere.

While this scenario is far from certain, researchers need to understand the overturning process, Pickart said, to make accurate predictions about the future of climate and circulation interaction.

"If a large fraction of the overflow water comes from the NIJ, then we need to re-think how quickly the warm-to-cold conversion of the AMOC occurs, as well as how this process might be altered under a warming climate," said Pickart.

Pickart and a team of scientists from the U.S., Iceland, Norway, and the Netherlands are scheduled to embark on August 22nd on a cruise aboard the research vessel Knorr. They will collect new information on the overturning in the Iceland Sea.

"During our upcoming cruise we will deploy an array of year-long moorings across the entire Denmark Strait to quantify the NIJ and distinguish it from the East Greenland Current," Pickart said.

"Then we'll collect shipboard measurements in the Iceland Sea to the north of the mooring line to determine more precisely where and how the NIJ originates."

The cruise will be chronicled at the North Icelandic Jet Cruise website.

In addition to Pickart, authors of the Nature Geoscience paper include Michael Spall and Daniel Torres of WHOI; lead author Kjetil Våge, and co-authors Svein Østerhus and Tor Eldevik, all of the University of Bergen, Norway; and Héðinn Valdimarsson and Steingrímur Jónsson--the co-discoverers of the NIJ--of the Marine Research Institute in Reykjavik, Iceland.

The Research Council of Norway also funded the work.

Cheryl Dybas | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Receding glaciers in Bolivia leave communities at risk
20.10.2016 | European Geosciences Union

nachricht UM researchers study vast carbon residue of ocean life
19.10.2016 | University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>