There is a major air circulation that emerges each winter over the North Pole known as the “Polar Vortex” which scientists have now discovered has a very significant effect on things like ocean currents and weather systems.
At the recent gathering of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco, atmospheric scientist Thomas Reichler of the University of Utah and his student Junsu Kim, presented evidence of how the Polar Vortex may actually have medium term effects on climate. The area around Greenland, in particular, is labelled by the team as particularly important in terms of where current shifts take place. What is known as thermohaline circulation occurs when the Gulf Stream approaches Greenland after being exposed to lots of sunlight and evaporation, it brings much saltier water than that of the glaciers and therefore its weight causes it to sink to the bottom of the ocean. As Cosmos explains it, “As every next cubic kilometre of water arrives, the previous one is pushed in the only direction available: south. Eventually, it replaces warm water at the equator that will flow north and bring Northern Europe its temperate climate.”
Beyond all the complicated details, the result is one with implications for the world’s climate, less cooling of the ocean from less powerful winds over Greenland. Warmer waters have long been a concern with global environmental impact.
In terms of good or useful news, this revelation makes it possible to built better models which incorporate the impact of stratospheric influence on climate change. So at the very least, we will have a better idea of what is to come and possibly how to prepare for it.
Photo: radzfoto / flickr