A new study has provided the first observational data for stabilizing the anti-cyclonic Beaufort Gyre.
The Gyre is the largest arctic ocean freshwater reserve and is the dominant circulation pattern in the Canada basin.
The researchers were able to quantify the sea surface height of the Gyre, and the change signals the possibility that it is about to release a huge amount of freshwater into the ocean. This possible release could have wide-ranging ramifications for the global climate since it would affect the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, which plays a crucial role in the planet’s climate patterns.
According to Peigen Lin, the paper’s lead author and associate professor at the Shanghai Jiao Tong University’s School of Oceanography in China:
“People should be aware that changes in the circulation of the Arctic Ocean could threaten the climate. It’s not only the melting ice and animals losing their habitat that should be a concern. Both of these indicate that the Beaufort Gyre has stabilized in the second decade of this century.”
While Robert Pickart, co-author and senior scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution’s Department of Physical Oceanography added:
“If that freshwater gets released and ends up spreading into the North Atlantic, it could impact the overturning circulation, and, in an extreme case, disrupt it. The community has been confounded by the fact that this Gyre has kept growing and growing, and everyone is expecting it to release.
“Wouldn’t it be something if the gyre system and its freshwater accumulation and release could be become somewhat predictable? Then, perhaps, we could also shed light on what a warming climate is going to do to this system.”