Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Southern Ocean Could Slow Global Warming

06.12.2006
The Southern Ocean may slow the rate of global warming by absorbing significantly more heat and carbon dioxide than previously thought, according to new research.

The Southern Hemisphere westerly winds have moved southward in the last 30 years. A new climate model predicts that as the winds shift south, they can do a better job of transferring heat and carbon dioxide from the surface waters surrounding Antarctica into the deeper, colder waters.

The new finding surprised the scientists, said lead researcher Joellen L. Russell. "We think it will slow global warming. It won't reverse or stop it, but it will slow the rate of increase."

The new model Russell and her colleagues developed provides a realistic simulation of the Southern Hemisphere westerlies and Southern Ocean circulation.

Previous climate models did not have the winds properly located. In simulations of present-day climate, those models distorted the ocean's response to future increases in greenhouse gases.

"Because these winds have moved poleward, the Southern Ocean around Antarctica is likely to take up 20 percent more carbon dioxide than in a model where the winds are poorly located," said Russell, an assistant professor of geosciences at The University of Arizona in Tucson.

"More heat stored in the ocean means less heat stored in the atmosphere. That's also true for carbon dioxide, the major greenhouse gas."

"But there are consequences," Russell said. "This isn't an unqualified good, even if more carbon dioxide and heat goes into the ocean."

As the atmosphere warms, storing more heat in the ocean will cause sea levels to rise even faster as the warmed water expands, she said. Adding more CO2 to the oceans will change their chemistry, making the water more acidic and less habitable for some marine organisms.

Russell and her colleagues conducted the study while she was a researcher at Princeton University and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory in Princeton, N.J.

Her co-authors on the article, "The Southern Hemisphere Westerlies in a Warming World: Propping open the Door to the Deep Ocean," are GFDL researchers Keith W. Dixon, Anand Gnanadesikan, Ronald J. Stouffer and J.R. Toggweiler. The article will be published in the December 15 issue of the Journal of Climate. NOAA funded the work.

The researchers characterize the Southern Ocean as "the crossroads of the global ocean's water masses, connecting the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans as well as connecting the deep ocean to the surface."

The current set of computer models that scientists use to predict future climate differ in the degree to which heat is sequestered by the Southern Ocean. The models vary in how they represent the behavior of the Southern Hemisphere Westerlies and the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, the largest current on the planet.

The team's model does a better job of depicting the location and observed southward shift of the Southern Hemisphere atmospheric winds than do previous global climate circulation models. The new model developed at GFDL shows that the poleward shift of the westerlies intensifies the strength of the winds as they whip past the tip of South America and circumnavigate Antarctica.

"It's like a huge blender," Russell said as she held up a globe and demonstrated how the winds whirl around the southernmost continent. Those winds, she said, propel the Antarctic Circumpolar Current. The current drives the upwelling of cold water from more than two miles deep. The heavy, cold water comes to the surface and then sinks back down, carrying the carbon dioxide and heat with it.

The new model forecasts this shift in the winds will continue into the future as greenhouse gases increase.

Stouffer said, "The poleward intensification of the westerlies will allow the ocean to remove additional heat and anthropogenic carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Thus, the deep ocean has the potential to slow the atmospheric warming through the increased storage of heat and carbon."

The team's next step will be figuring out how warming, ice-melt and ongoing shifts in the Southern Hemisphere westerlies will affect the biogeochemistry of the Southern Ocean and the global budgets for heat and carbon dioxide.

Mari N. Jensen | University of Arizona
Further information:
http://www.arizona.edu

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Modeling magma to find copper
13.01.2017 | Université de Genève

nachricht What makes erionite carcinogenic?
13.01.2017 | Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

Im Focus: How to inflate a hardened concrete shell with a weight of 80 t

At TU Wien, an alternative for resource intensive formwork for the construction of concrete domes was developed. It is now used in a test dome for the Austrian Federal Railways Infrastructure (ÖBB Infrastruktur).

Concrete shells are efficient structures, but not very resource efficient. The formwork for the construction of concrete domes alone requires a high amount of...

Im Focus: Bacterial Pac Man molecule snaps at sugar

Many pathogens use certain sugar compounds from their host to help conceal themselves against the immune system. Scientists at the University of Bonn have now, in cooperation with researchers at the University of York in the United Kingdom, analyzed the dynamics of a bacterial molecule that is involved in this process. They demonstrate that the protein grabs onto the sugar molecule with a Pac Man-like chewing motion and holds it until it can be used. Their results could help design therapeutics that could make the protein poorer at grabbing and holding and hence compromise the pathogen in the host. The study has now been published in “Biophysical Journal”.

The cells of the mouth, nose and intestinal mucosa produce large quantities of a chemical called sialic acid. Many bacteria possess a special transport system...

Im Focus: Newly proposed reference datasets improve weather satellite data quality

UMD, NOAA collaboration demonstrates suitability of in-orbit datasets for weather satellite calibration

"Traffic and weather, together on the hour!" blasts your local radio station, while your smartphone knows the weather halfway across the world. A network of...

Im Focus: Repairing defects in fiber-reinforced plastics more efficiently

Fiber-reinforced plastics (FRP) are frequently used in the aeronautic and automobile industry. However, the repair of workpieces made of these composite materials is often less profitable than exchanging the part. In order to increase the lifetime of FRP parts and to make them more eco-efficient, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) and the Apodius GmbH want to combine a new measuring device for fiber layer orientation with an innovative laser-based repair process.

Defects in FRP pieces may be production or operation-related. Whether or not repair is cost-effective depends on the geometry of the defective area, the tools...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

Nothing will happen without batteries making it happen!

05.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Multiregional brain on a chip

16.01.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

New technology enables 5-D imaging in live animals, humans

16.01.2017 | Information Technology

Researchers develop environmentally friendly soy air filter

16.01.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>