Many workings of the natural world are still a mystery. Unfortunately these mysteries could hold the key to understanding many of the resulting impacts global warming and other major changes to the Earth have. One wonder of sorts is the Beaufort Gyre north of Alaska in the Arctic Ocean.
This phenomenon is considered a body of water, approximately ten times larger than Lake Michigan, but is actually an ocean current driven by wind. Located in the western Arctic Ocean, this large body of water could have great implications for the climate of Europe. A change in the natural processes of the gyre, including the direction the wind blows, could result in colder temperatures in Europe.
Scientists from the University College London and Britain’s National Oceanography Center are studying the Beaufort Gyre and the potential impacts of changes in body of water. The scientists have been using satellite information to attain data on the sea level of the gyre from 1995 to 2010. The team of scientists found that since 2002, the Beaufort Gyre has experienced a sea rise of fifteen centimeters.
The increasing sea rise is attributed to an increase in fresh water addition to the gyre. This additional fresh water has come from melting glaciers and sea ice, likely increased by global warming, and from rivers. An approximate increase in water was found to be ten percent. In addition to these contributions, the team also believes that wind could also be impacting the surface height of the water.
The Beaufort Gyre impacts ocean circulation, climate and a plethora of other processes that scientists have yet to be able to fully understand. However, scientists do fear that the gyre could be considerably impacted by global warming with results not yet known.
However, the current research has determined that if the gyre continues to gain fresh water and size combined with a change in wind direction, Europe may experience cooler temperatures. Wind direction changes may seem unlikely, however, the winds in the region did reverse for a time period between the 1980s and 1990s. The increase of fresh water in the gyre makes it likely that wind changes could result in this fresh water advancing through the Arctic Ocean and the northern Atlantic to subsequently impact temperatures in the region.
The team’s research is not near completion as they are still studying the processes of the Beaufort Gyre. However, the data does allow a glimpse into how elaborate and far reaching natural processes are across the globe.