Climate change accelerates one of the strongest currents in the oceans

Researchers drop an Argo buoy in the Southern Ocean (Photo: EFE)

The only ocean current that circumnavigates the planet is accelerating, according to an investigation that has detected a change in the Antartic Ocean, the region that absorbs most of the human-induced warming globally.

The analysis of decades of data has allowed scientists to verify, for the first time, that the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (CCA) is undergoing this acceleration, indicates a study published Nature Climate Change, signed by American and Chinese experts.

For the study, satellite measurements of the height of the sea surface and data collected by the global network of Argo ocean buoys (in full operation since 2007), to detect a trend in the speed of the upper layer of the Antarctic Ocean that it had remained hidden from scientists until now.

The prevailing westerly winds have accelerated as the climate warms and the models show that ocean currents do not change much, but rather it energizes ocean eddies, which are circular movements of water that go against the main currents.

From both observations and models, the team saw that ocean temperature change is causing the significant acceleration of ocean currents detected over the past decades. The CEC surrounds Antarctica and separates the cold water from the south from the warmer subtropical water just to the north.

This warmer part of the ocean absorbs much of the heat that human activities add to Earth’s atmosphere. For this reason, scientists consider it vital to understand its dynamics, since what happens in it could influence the climate in other places, he told the University of San Diego (USA) in a statement.

Ocean Warming Pattern Matters. When the gradient, or amount of heat difference, between warm and cold waters increases, the currents between these two masses accelerate.

“The CCA is driven mainly by the wind, but we showed that changes in its speed are surprisingly mostly due to changes in the heat gradient”Said Lynne Talley, co-author of the report from the University of San Diego.

For the authors, the speed of the current is likely to increase further as the Southern Ocean continues to absorb heat by human-induced global warming.

Nature Climate Change publishes another study in which it is considered that the strategic withdrawal of super-polluting power plants could cumulatively save six million lives in the world between 2010 and 2050, assuming that mitigation policies are applied that successfully avoid a global warming of 1.5 degrees.

Research from Peking Tsinghua University suggests that the health benefits of climate change mitigation may rely on complementary programs, such as the deployment of pollution control technologies and the removal of super-polluting units.

(With information from EFE)

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