A deep sea current flowing just north of Iceland could change the way we think about climate change.
Steingrímur Jónsson, who is also a professor at the University of Akureyri, and Héðinn Valdimarsson led the deep sea research. Working in conjuction with American researchers, they studied the flow of a deep sea current called the North Icelandic Jet. This current, whose existence itself was only recently proven, carries warm water from the Atlantic, which flows near the surface, northwards – as it cools, it sinks further into the ocean. When they took a closer look at this current, they made a breakthrough.
First, there is a global current known as the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), also known as the “great ocean conveyor belt”. This enormous current is critical to maintaining a proper climate on our planet. Feeding AMOC are a number of smaller currents, among them the Denmark Strait Overflow Water (DSOW). This is the largest of the currents that feed the lower branch of the AMOC with water from the far north Atlantic.
These two scientists now believe that the North Icelandic Jet is not just a major contributor to the DSOW; it also happens to be the primary source of some of the densest overflow water in the ocean.
The implications of this alter the picture of climate change. It has long been contended that melting ice from global warming would contribute fresh water to the oceans, slowing the flow of AMOC, which would in turn lead to disastrous climate change. However, if the North Icelandic Jet is the major source of flow for AMOC, then this effect may not necessarily happen.
Further research will still need to be done, but if their initial findings hold true, than the inner workings of the oceans – as well as theories regarding climate change – will have to undergo a major rethinking.