Newly discovered Icelandic ocean current challenges climate change ideas

Scientists have recently confirmed the existence of a deep-flowing ocean circulation system off Iceland which could make the ocean respond differently to climate change than previously thought.

The research team, which includes physical oceanographers from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), say the North Icelandic Jet (NIJ) is a major contributor to global ocean currents — one of the planet’s biggest climate regulatory systems.

The ocean currents carry warm surface water thousands of kilometres from the tropics to both poles, which then cools and sinks deep for its return journey to the tropics.

The India Times this week reported that the Denmark Strait Overflow Water (DSOW), the largest of the deep, overflow plumes that feed the lower limb of the conveyor belt is essential to the global climate.

It has always been assumed that the main source of the Denmark Overflow is the East Greenland Current. Two Icelandic oceanographers threw this assumption into doubt, however, when they discovered another deep current flowing sounth along Iceland’s continental slope. They named the current the North Icelandic Jet and theorised that it forms an important part of the ocean conveyor system.

Now, the team of scientists, which includes the two Icelanders, has confirmed that the Icelandic Jet is not only a major contributor to the DSOW but “is the primary source of the densest overflow water”.

“In our paper we present the first comprehensive measurements of the NIJ,” said Robert S. Pickart of WHOI, one of the authors of the study to the India Times. “Our data demonstrate that the NIJ indeed carries overflow water into Denmark Strait and is distinct from the East Greenland Current. We show that the NIJ constitutes approximately half of the total overflow transport and nearly all of the densest component,” added Pickart.

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