This striking pattern can be explained largely by the influence of a natural and cyclical wind circulation pattern called the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), wrote authors of a study published Thursday, Jan. 3, in Science Express, the online edition of the journal Science.
Winds that power the NAO are driven by atmospheric pressure differences between areas around Iceland and the Azores. “The winds have a tremendous impact on the underlying ocean,” said Susan Lozier, a professor of physical oceanography at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences who is the study’s first author.
Other studies cited in the Science Express report suggest human-caused global warming may be affecting recent ocean heating trends. But Lozier and her coauthors found their data can’t support that view for the North Atlantic. “It is premature to conclusively attribute these regional patterns of heat gain to greenhouse warming,” they wrote.
“The take-home message is that the NAO produces strong natural variability,” said Lozier in an interview. “The simplistic view of global warming is that everything forward in time will warm uniformly. But this very strong natural variability is superimposed on human-caused warming. So researchers will need to unravel that natural variability to get at the part humans are responsible for.”
In research supported by the National Science Foundation in the United States and the Natural Environment Research Council in the United Kingdom, her international team analyzed 50 years of North Atlantic temperature records collected at the National Oceanic Data Center in Washington, D.C.
To piece together the mechanisms involved in the observed changes, their analysis employed an ocean circulation model that predicts how winds, evaporation, precipitation and the exchange of heat with the atmosphere influences the North Atlantic’s heat content over time. They also compared those computer predictions to real observations “to test the model’s skill,” the authors wrote.
Her group’s analysis showed that water in the sub-polar ocean –- roughly between 45 degrees North latitude and the Arctic Circle –- became cooler as the water directly exchanged heat with the air above it.
By contrast, NOA-driven winds served to “pile up” sun-warmed waters in parts of the subtropical and tropical North Atlantic south of 45 degrees, Lozier said. That retained and distributed heat at the surface while pushing underlying cooler water further down.
The group’s computer model predicted warmer sea surfaces in the tropics and subtropics and colder readings within the sub-polar zone whenever the NAO is in an elevated state of activity. Such a high NAO has been the case during the years 1980 to 2000, the scientists reported.
“We suggest that the large-scale, decadal changes...associated with the NAO are primarily responsible for the ocean heat content changes in the North Atlantic over the past 50 years,” the authors concluded.
However, the researchers also noted that this study should not be viewed in isolation. Given reported heat content gains in other oceans basins, and rising air temperatures, the authors surmised that other parts of the world's ocean systems may have taken up the excess heat produced by global warming.
“But in the North Atlantic, any anthropogenic (human-caused) warming would presently be masked by such strong natural variability,” they wrote.
Monte Basgall | EurekAlert!
Five-point plan to integrate recreational fishers into fisheries and nature conservation policy
20.03.2019 | Leibniz-Institut für Gewässerökologie und Binnenfischerei (IGB)
Rain is important for how carbon dioxide affects grasslands
06.03.2019 | University of Gothenburg
DESY and MPSD scientists create high-order harmonics from solids with controlled polarization states, taking advantage of both crystal symmetry and attosecond electronic dynamics. The newly demonstrated technique might find intriguing applications in petahertz electronics and for spectroscopic studies of novel quantum materials.
The nonlinear process of high-order harmonic generation (HHG) in gases is one of the cornerstones of attosecond science (an attosecond is a billionth of a...
Nano- and microtechnology are promising candidates not only for medical applications such as drug delivery but also for the creation of little robots or flexible integrated sensors. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) have created magnetic microparticles, with a newly developed method, that could pave the way for building micro-motors or guiding drugs in the human body to a target, like a tumor. The preparation of such structures as well as their remote-control can be regulated using magnetic fields and therefore can find application in an array of domains.
The magnetic properties of a material control how this material responds to the presence of a magnetic field. Iron oxide is the main component of rust but also...
Due to the special arrangement of its molecules, a new coating made of corn starch is able to repair small scratches by itself through heat: The cross-linking via ring-shaped molecules makes the material mobile, so that it compensates for the scratches and these disappear again.
Superficial micro-scratches on the car body or on other high-gloss surfaces are harmless, but annoying. Especially in the luxury segment such surfaces are...
The Potsdam Echelle Polarimetric and Spectroscopic Instrument (PEPSI) at the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) in Arizona released its first image of the surface magnetic field of another star. In a paper in the European journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, the PEPSI team presents a Zeeman- Doppler-Image of the surface of the magnetically active star II Pegasi.
A special technique allows astronomers to resolve the surfaces of faraway stars. Those are otherwise only seen as point sources, even in the largest telescopes...
Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology and the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, have proposed a way to create a completely new source of radiation. Ultra-intense light pulses consist of the motion of a single wave and can be described as a tsunami of light. The strong wave can be used to study interactions between matter and light in a unique way. Their research is now published in the scientific journal Physical Review Letters.
"This source of radiation lets us look at reality through a new angle - it is like twisting a mirror and discovering something completely different," says...
11.03.2019 | Event News
01.03.2019 | Event News
28.02.2019 | Event News
22.03.2019 | Life Sciences
22.03.2019 | Life Sciences
22.03.2019 | Information Technology