Human-induced climate change has caused major ocean currents to become more rapid, according to a new NASA study. The space agency spent a lot of time monitoring and studying our own planet, using up to a decade of satellite data to measure the Beaufort Gyre and found that the current moved faster as sea ice melted rapidly.
Simply put, because of the wind, the Boftert vortex, which is a circulation, rotates clockwise. According to NASA, the current “balances” the polar regions by collecting fresh water from things like melting glaciers and storing them near the ocean surface. As a result, fresh water slows the rate at which sea ice is melting and helps maintain the Earth’s climate regulation.
NASA scientists have found that the current has been accumulating large amounts of fresh water since the 1990s as sea ice melts faster. As sea ice melts, the circulation is exposed to more wind, allowing it to move faster, which inhales more fresh water into the circulation. Fresh water is having trouble “escaping” the Arctic Ocean because the wind has been turning the ring in the same direction for more than two decades. NASA thinks this is unusual – usually, the wind changes direction every few years, causing the ocean currents to reverse, releasing the fresh water that accumulates.
Tom Armitage, lead author of the study, explains:
If the Beaufort vortex releases excess fresh water into the Atlantic Ocean, it may slow its circulation. This will have an impact on the climate of the entire hemisphere, particularly in Western Europe.
According to NASA scientists, the effects of circulation could spread to the Arctic wildlife and food chain, as well as marine life. Changes in wind direction can cause large amounts of fresh water to flow into the Atlantic ocean rapidly, slowing down the Atlantic’s trans-reversal circulation (AMOC). This will therefore affect communities dependent on marine life and have a significant impact on the climate in Western Europe.