Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Ocean layers warming too fast

The subsurface ocean layers that surround the polar ice sheets continue to warm really fast because of the global warming phenomenon. This will in years to come significantly add to melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets increasing sea level rise well beyond current projections.

Polar ice sheets are even more troubled with the rapid warming of ocean layers than with the increased air temperatures. This is because water has a much larger heat capacity than air, you can for instance just compare the effect of melting an ice cube in a warm room to the melting of the ice cube in the warmer water. While to melt an ice cube in a warm room you need several hours in order to melt ice cube in a warmer water you only need couple of minutes.

The researchers from the University of Arizona believe that the subsurface ocean along the Greenland coast could experience a temperature increase of a 3.6 °F (2 °C) by 2100. This is twice as much as the predicted average warming of ocean layers of 1.8 °F.

The main reason why Arctic will melt more rapidly compared to Antarctica is the Gulf stream. The Gulf Stream carries warm subtropical waters north towards the Arctic while Antarctic Circumpolar Current blocks large share of subtropical warmth from entering Antarctic's waters.

Still, even despite this blocking Antarctica won't be spared of rapid warming and will likely melt faster than previously predicted though very likely not as fast as Arctic.

If ocean layers continue the current trend of warming by the end of the century world could experience a sea level rise of around one meter if not even more. This is certainly a one thing we should avoid at all costs.

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