NASA experts have found that sea currents in the Arctic are accelerating and becoming more turbulent due to the rapid melting of ice. However, if perennial winds change their direction, it is predicted that the huge amount of melt water released into the Atlantic could cause an early Little Ice Age, significantly cooling the climate of Western Europe. This was announced in a press release on Phys.org.
Scientists analyzed data collected over 12 years by satellites that observed the Beaufort Gyre circular current, which accumulates fresh melt water. It turned out that the melting of glaciers and the formation of large amounts of cold fresh water destabilizes the flow and cycles in the Atlantic Ocean.
The Beaufort Current keeps the polar environment in balance by keeping fresh water in the near-surface layer of the Arctic Ocean. It is formed by the wind that blows in a clockwise direction, collecting fresh water from melting glaciers, river runoff and precipitation. Fresh water sits on top of warm salt water, protecting the sea ice and regulating the Earth's climate. For decades, the cold water then enters the Atlantic Ocean and is carried away in small quantities by the southern currents.
Since the 1990s, the circulation has accumulated about eight thousand cubic kilometers of fresh water. The main reason for this is the loss of sea ice in summer and autumn. In turn, the ice-free one is accelerated more strongly by the wind, which prevents the release of melt water into the Atlantic Ocean. However, if the perennial westerly wind changes direction, the current will begin to rotate counterclockwise, releasing huge amounts of cold water into the Atlantic and changing the regional climate. Previously, in this region, the winds changed directions every five to seven years, so it is likely that this will happen again.
The increasing turbulence promotes mixing of warm and cold water, which also affects the accelerated melting of ice.