Written By: Angela Hu
Oceans are a critical part of the earth’s ecosystems. However, new research shows that ocean currents are moving faster than they did 20 years ago. Could this be because of climate change?
A new paper uses data collected by over 3,000 Argo floats. These are autonomous, missile-shaped floats that measure temperature, salinity, and speeds of currents. In combination with climate simulations, the scientists calculated the change in kinetic energy, which is energy from the wind that is transferred into the water.
The research shows that winds are speeding up, with ocean circulation accelerating by 36% since the early 1990s. This increase in kinetic energy is impacting water as deep as 2000 meters, or 6,560 feet. The acceleration, which is the greatest in the tropics, is larger than what would naturally occur. This suggests to the researchers that global warming is the culprit.
Why This Matters
Changes in ocean current speeds were expected, but much later in this century. Ocean currents help regulate climate and influence weather systems. They push heat and nutrients around, and changes can threaten ecosystems or impact marine life. This can have large impacts on communities, such as impacting fisheries and the people who depend on fishing. It is because ocean currents directly impact life on earth that this paper is so important. The exact link between climate change and ocean current speed is unknown. However, this paper will most likely create more research on this issue.
I think it is important to ask what more unexpected consequences there are of climate change. These effects that scientists are unaware of could potentially have drastic impacts on communities. This is even more reason that we should be working harder to solve climate change.