(Sandra Hines/UW Today, 4 January 2012) -- A hemisphere-wide phenomenon – and not just regional forces – has caused record-breaking amounts of freshwater to accumulate in the Arctic’s Beaufort Sea. Frigid freshwater flowing into the Arctic Ocean from three of Russia’s mighty rivers was diverted hundreds of miles to a completely different part of the ocean in response to a decades-long shift in atmospheric pressure associated with the phenomenon called the Arctic Oscillation, according to findings published in the Jan. 5 issue of Nature.
The new findings show that a low pressure pattern created by the Arctic Oscillation from 2005 to 2008 drew Russian river water away from the Eurasian Basin, between Russia and Greenland, and into the Beaufort Sea, a part of the Canada Basin bordered by the United States and Canada. It was like adding 10 feet (3 meters) of freshwater over the central part of the Beaufort Sea.
“Knowing the pathways of freshwater in the upper ocean is important to understanding global climate because of freshwater’s role in protecting sea ice – it can help create a barrier between the ice and warmer ocean water below – and its role in global ocean circulation. Too much freshwater exiting the Arctic would inhibit the interplay of cold water from the poles and warm water from the tropics,” said Jamie Morison, an oceanographer with the University of Washington’s Applied Physics Laboratory and lead author of the Nature paper.
See JPL press release on this study.
Posted by Amanda Graham – 5 January 2012; 11:47:25 AM – Permalink
Tagged: Arctic, News, Polar research: Reports and findings