To start with, this headline and writer has got it exactly backwards. The oceans are the great engine that actually dictates all the gross aspects of what we call science. It absorbs most of the incoming solar energy. What it fails to absorb is then absorbed a little by the atmosphere ore mostly bounced back into space or used to warm up rocks and encourage vegetation. The latter two provides us with a very thin surface layer that is sometimes quite warm and in which the land based biosphere resides.
The ocean surface layer which captures effectively all this energy is about 200 meters thick. After that the break into cold water is abrupt and approaches freezing temperatures as one gets deeper.
Our ignorance about the three dimensional geometry of this environment is presently abysmal. All I have seen in the literature so far is excuses. I am sure that the first 200 meters is well mapped because of submarine activity. They really need to know. But once you get deeper, the work has barely begun.
I suspect it is critically important in understanding the drivers behind Arctic sea ice reduction.
It is going to take a deep diving device able to able a measure flow rate and direction continuously down to the deep sea bottom. This must be done on a grid basis in a progressively tighter grid as discontinuities are picked up. Obviously this will go on for years, but the equipment capability exists to do this. Some part of it may even have begun. If you know of any such effort, please let me know.
The reason this is important is clear. A velocity change has already been observed in a known flow. This means that somehow the geometry changed since the volume cannot change.
A change in velocity will change the energetics of the surface layer. During this period it has been observed that the warmer surface waters have increased their contribution to the
Arctic and the Antarctic. The change of velocity may have changed little that is substantive but sufficient to inject additional annual heat into the surface layer. We do not need very much at all and it will be difficult to measure.
The result has been the progressive destruction of all multiyear ice over the past three decades. Merely assuming the heat contribution has not varied much is sufficient to explain present evidence.
December 10, 2009
In Deep Water:
Currents Be Altered by Climate Change? [Slide Show] Will Essential Ocean
Scientists are struggling to get a grasp on the huge volumes of water flowing through the world's oceans
CURRENT QUESTIONS A key aspect of the Atlantic Ocean's large-scale circulation involves the sinking of cold, dense water--called deep-water formation--in
Arctic and Antarctic waters. Scientists who are trying predict how climate change will play out in different parts of the globe want to find out how this vital circulation is altered in a warmer, wetter world--and how this alteration in turn will affect climate.