18 July 2024
Antarctic deep-sea warming raises North Atlantic sea levels

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Understanding Antarctic Deep-Sea Warming and its Impact on Sea Level Rise

Antarctic deep-sea warming has been identified as a significant factor contributing to sea level rise in the North Atlantic, according to a recent study conducted by scientists at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine, Atmospheric, and Earth Science, in collaboration with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory. This study, published in the journal Nature Geoscience, sheds light on the interconnectedness of distant oceanic regions and the impact of human-induced environmental changes on Earth’s climate system.

The Role of Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation in Deep-Ocean Warming

The research team delved into two decades of deep-sea oceanographic data collected through observational mooring programs to investigate the weakening of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) deep water limb in the North Atlantic. The AMOC, a crucial system of ocean currents known as the “conveyer belt,” plays a vital role in distributing heat, nutrients, and carbon dioxide across the global oceans. The specific focus was on the shrinking deep-ocean branch, also known as the abyssal limb, which is a part of the AMOC.

This abyssal limb is primarily comprised of Antarctic bottom water, formed through the cooling of seawater in the Southern Ocean surrounding Antarctica during the winter months. One of the key mechanisms for the formation of this dense bottom water is brine rejection, where salty water released during sea ice formation increases the surrounding water’s density, causing it to sink to the ocean floor. This cold, dense water then spreads northward across the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans, affecting oceanic circulation patterns.

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Implications of Warming Deep-Sea Waters on Oceanic Circulation

Over the course of the 21st century, the researchers observed a slowdown in the flow of the Antarctic bottom water across the 16°N latitude in the Atlantic, leading to a reduction in the inflow of cold waters to higher latitudes. This slowdown resulted in the warming of deep-ocean waters, impacting regions spanning thousands of miles in both north-south and east-west directions at depths ranging from 4,000 to 6,000 meters.

The increase in abyssal ocean heat content due to this warming has significant implications for local sea level rise, primarily driven by the thermal expansion of water. The study’s findings align with numerical models predicting that human activities can induce circulation changes in the global ocean, emphasizing the interconnected nature of Earth’s oceanic systems and the far-reaching consequences of environmental alterations.

Collaborative Efforts and Future Implications

The collaborative efforts of multiple oceanographic institutions worldwide have been instrumental in enabling this in-depth analysis of deep-sea warming and its impacts on oceanic circulation patterns. Through decades of observational data collection and analysis, researchers have been able to uncover the intricate relationship between human-induced changes in the Antarctic region and the subsequent effects on oceanic heat distribution and sea level rise.

As we move forward, it becomes increasingly crucial to continue monitoring and studying these deep-sea phenomena to better understand and predict the complex interactions within Earth’s climate system. By raising awareness about the role of Antarctic deep-sea warming in driving changes in oceanic circulation and sea level rise, we can collectively strive towards sustainable environmental practices and mitigate the long-term impacts of climate change on our planet.

Links to additional Resources:

1. ScienceDaily 2. Nature 3. NASA

Related Wikipedia Articles

Topics: Antarctic bottom water, Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), Sea level rise

Antarctic bottom water
The Antarctic bottom water (AABW) is a type of water mass in the Southern Ocean surrounding Antarctica with temperatures ranging from −0.8 to 2 °C (35 °F) and absolute salinities from 34.6 to 35.0 g/kg. As the densest water mass of the oceans, AABW is found to occupy the depth...
Read more: Antarctic bottom water

Atlantic meridional overturning circulation
The Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) is the "main current system in the South and North Atlantic Oceans".: 2238  As such, it is a component of Earth's oceanic circulation system and plays an important role in the climate system. The AMOC includes currents at the surface as well as at great...
Read more: Atlantic meridional overturning circulation

Sea level rise
Between 1901 and 2018, average global sea level rose by 15–25 cm (6–10 in), an average of 1–2 mm (0.039–0.079 in) per year. This rate accelerated to 4.62 mm (0.182 in)/yr for the decade 2013–2022. Climate change due to human activities is the main cause.: 5, 8  Between 1993 and 2018, thermal...
Read more: Sea level rise

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