Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Satellites Record Weakening North Atlantic Current

19.04.2004


A North Atlantic Ocean circulation system weakened considerably in the late 1990s, compared to the 1970s and 1980s, according to a NASA study.


Dominant Pattern of Variability of the Sea-surface Height in the 1990s

This image shows the dominant pattern of variability of the sea-surface height in the 1990s. The slope of the sea-surface height is in balance with ocean currents, much in the way weather maps of pressure relate to winds. The large blue region in the northern Atlantic represents a slowing of the counter-clockwise,
cyclonically circulating subpolar gyre. For this image, the researchers used TOPEX/Poseidon data, which has been combined with ERS-1/2 data into the NASA Pathfinder data set. The Pathfinder data set also includes the Seasat and Geosat data which are referenced to TOPEX/Poseidon data. The next few years will reveal how sea surface height is going to evolve as the altimetric time series continues with JASON-1 observations. Credit: Sirpa Hakkinen, NASA GSFC


Terra MODIS Sea Surface Temperatures for North Atlantic Ocean

This image of North Atlantic Ocean sea surface temperatures represents an eight-day composite from Sept 6 - Sept 13, 2001 from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument on Terra. The red and orange colors represent warmer water, while the blue shades represent cold water in the higher latitudes. The Gulf Stream is evident along the U.S. eastern seaboard. The color bar is in units of degrees Celsius. Credit: Ronald Vogel, SAIC for NASA GSFC



Sirpa Hakkinen, lead author and researcher at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. and co-author Peter Rhines, an oceanographer at the University of Washington, Seattle, believe slowing of this ocean current is an indication of dramatic changes in the North Atlantic Ocean climate. The study’s results about the system that moves water in a counterclockwise pattern from Ireland to Labrador were published on the Internet by the journal Science on the Science Express Web site at:

http://www.sciencexpress.org or http://www.aaas.org


The current, known as the sub polar gyre, has weakened in the past in connection with certain phases of a large-scale atmospheric pressure system known as the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). But the NAO has switched phases twice in the 1990s, while the subpolar gyre current has continued to weaken. Whether the trend is part of a natural cycle or the result of other factors related to global warming is unknown.

"It is a signal of large climate variability in the high latitudes," Hakkinen said. "If this trend continues, it could indicate reorganization of the ocean climate system, perhaps with changes in the whole climate system, but we need another good five to 10 years to say something like that is happening." Rhines said, "The subpolar zone of the Earth is a key site for studying the climate. It’s like Grand Central Station there, as many of the major ocean water masses pass through from the Arctic and from warmer latitudes. They are modified in this basin. Computer models have shown the slowing and speeding up of the subpolar gyre can influence the entire ocean circulation system."

Satellite data makes it possible to view the gyre over the entire North Atlantic basin. Measurements from deep in the ocean, using buoys, ships and new autonomous "robot" Seagliders, are important for validating and extending the satellite data. Sea-surface height satellite data came from NASA’s Seasat (July, August 1978), U.S. Navy’s Geosat (1985 to 1988), and the European Space Agency’s European Remote Sensing Satellite1/2 and NASA’s TOPEX/Poseidon (1992 to present).

Hakkinen and Rhines were able to reference earlier data to TOPEX/Poseidon data, and translate the satellite sea-surface height data to velocities of the subpolar gyre. The subpolar gyre can take 20 years to complete its route. Warm water runs northward through the Gulf Stream, past Ireland, before it turns westward near Iceland and the tip of Greenland.

The current loses heat to the atmosphere as it moves north. Westerly winds pick up that lost heat, creating warmer, milder European winters. After frigid Labrador Sea winters, the water in the current becomes cold, salty and dense, plunges beneath the surface, and heads slowly southward back to the equator. The cycle is sensitive to the paths of winter storms and to the buoyant fresh water from glacial melting and precipitation, all of which are experiencing great change.

While previous studies have proposed winds resulting from the NAO have influenced the subpolar gyre’s currents, this study found heat exchanges from the ocean to the atmosphere may be playing a bigger role in the weakening current. Using Topex/Poseidon sea-surface height data, the researchers inferred Labrador Sea water in the core of the gyre warmed during the 1990s. This warming reduces the contrast with water from warmer southern latitudes, which is part of the driving force for ocean circulation.

The joint NASA-CNES (French Space Agency) Topex/Poseidon oceanography satellite provides high-precision data on the height of the world’s ocean surfaces, a key measure of ocean circulation and heat storage in the ocean.

NASA’s Earth Science Enterprise is dedicated to understanding the Earth as an integrated system and applying Earth System Science to improve prediction of climate, weather and natural hazards using the unique vantage point of space. NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the National Science Foundation funded the study.

Krishna Ramanujan | GSFC
Further information:
http://www.gsfc.nasa.gov/topstory/2004/0415gyre.html

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Fossil coral reefs show sea level rose in bursts during last warming
19.10.2017 | Rice University

nachricht NASA finds newly formed tropical storm lan over open waters
17.10.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Neutron star merger directly observed for the first time

University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event

On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

Im Focus: Shrinking the proton again!

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.

It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

Climate Engineering Conference 2017 Opens in Berlin

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Electrode materials from the microwave oven

19.10.2017 | Materials Sciences

New material for digital memories of the future

19.10.2017 | Materials Sciences

Physics boosts artificial intelligence methods

19.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>