Deep ocean sediments offer a record of ocean circulation in the past. By studying these sediments, we can see that abrupt changes in ocean circulation and the subsequent climate change are not a new phenomenon, but have happened on several occasions in the past. When the great ice sheets covering North America and Scandinavia melted at the end of the last ice age, the subsequent flow of fresh water into the North Atlantic caused the greatest natural disturbance in ocean circulation in the last 20,000 years. This episode provides an excellent model to examine the relation between ocean disturbance and climate instability.
According to a revision article published in Science, ocean circulation during the last ice age was very different to present day circulation. The formation of deep water currents in the North Atlantic was much weaker and the flow of warm water from the Gulf Stream decreased. This led to a cooling of the northern hemisphere and contributed to the formation of the great ice caps which covered North America, Scandinavia and Europe.
In a similar study, the marine sediments of the North Atlantic were observed in order to document the sequence of events that led to that disturbance. The melting caused a significant decrease in the Gulf Stream, which transports warm water from the Gulf of Mexico to the North. This submerged the region of the North Atlantic into a period of glacial cold which lasted at least 1,200 years.
Nevertheless, the slowing down of the ocean circulation in the North Atlantic began about 700 to 1,200 years before this great melting of the ice caps and the subsequent flow of fresh water into the ocean took place. The very first stage of this change coincided with brief and isolated periods of melting of the small British Ice Sheet (BIS). The authors of the study have come to this conclusion from an observation of the fine layers of sediment (formed by grains of quartz) coming from successive waves of icebergs which, when they melted dumped their load of sediments onto the sea bed. These icebergs came from the edges of the ice which surround and stabilised the BIS.
These results show that the disturbances caused by melting may in turn cause substantial changes in ocean circulation without the need for a catastrophic dumping of fresh water. This seems to indicate that an acceleration in the melting of the Greenland ice cap, could, in fact, play a key role in the future stability of ocean circulation and climate change in the whole North Atlantic region.
Octavi López Coronado | alfa
Predicting unpredictability: Information theory offers new way to read ice cores
07.12.2016 | Santa Fe Institute
Sea ice hit record lows in November
07.12.2016 | University of Colorado at Boulder
Physicists of the University of Würzburg have made an astonishing discovery in a specific type of topological insulators. The effect is due to the structure of the materials used. The researchers have now published their work in the journal Science.
Topological insulators are currently the hot topic in physics according to the newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Only a few weeks ago, their importance was...
In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.
Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...
Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
09.12.2016 | Life Sciences
09.12.2016 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation
09.12.2016 | Health and Medicine