EcoAlert: Does Newly Discovered Icelandic Ocean Current Impact Climate Change?


Scientists have confirmed the existence of a deep-flowing ocean circulation system off Iceland which could make the ocean respond differently to climate change than previously thought. The research team, which includes physical oceanographers from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), say the North Icelandic Jet is a major contributor to global ocean currents — one of the planet’s biggest climate regulatory systems. The team concluded that the Denmark Strait Overflow Water, the largest of the deep, overflow plumes that feed the lower limb of the conveyor belt is essential to the global climate.

The ocean currents carry warm surface water thousands of kilometres from the tropics to both poles, which then cools and sinks deep for its return journey to the tropics. It has always been assumed that the main source of the Denmark Overflow is the East Greenland Current.

Two Icelandic oceanographers threw this assumption into doubt, however, when they discovered another deep current flowing sounth along Iceland’s continental slope. They named the current the North Icelandic Jet and theorised that it forms an important part of the ocean conveyor system.

Now, the team has confirmed that the Icelandic Jet is not only a major contributor to the DSOW but “is the primary source of the densest overflow water”.

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