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Huge Freshwater Bulge In Arctic Ocean 382

Posted by Soulskill
from the lumpy-planet dept.
New submitter turkeyfish writes "UK scientists are reporting today in the journal Nature Geoscience that a huge bulge of freshwater is forming in the Western Arctic Ocean caused by a large gyre of freshwater. The gyre appears to indicate that the ice is becoming thin enough over the Arctic Ocean that the wind is beginning to affect the motion of water under the ice. A sudden release of this water or its emergence to the surface will greatly accelerate the melting of the remaining polar oceanic ice and likely alter oceanic circulation in the North Atlantic."
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Huge Freshwater Bulge In Arctic Ocean

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  • This is all going according to the long-term global warming forecast laid out by Al Gore in his book and movie "An Inconvenient Truth" where ice at the poles melting means more water and less ice in the ocean which leads to flooding in coastal areas... and it all goes downhill from there.

    • by lawpoop (604919) on Monday January 23, 2012 @08:15PM (#38799833) Homepage Journal
      Will liberals stop at nothing to destroy the American Way of Life? </sarcasm>
    • by jhoegl (638955)
      Well, the sooner it happens the faster people will not be able to bitch because they have salt water in their mouth.
      Seriously, the back and forth wares me out. Once it happens, at least people who are still alive can tell others. "Told you so".
      Ironically, holding on to a floatation device....
      • by Surt (22457)

        That's pretty much the opposite of irony.

    • by mosb1000 (710161) <mosb1000@mac.com> on Monday January 23, 2012 @08:20PM (#38799895)

      Melting sea ice won't lead to a significant increase in ocean levels, it's the land ice you have to worry about.

      • Like the Greenland glaciers.

      • by tizan (925212) on Monday January 23, 2012 @08:58PM (#38800153)

        It is the breaking of the well established currents.
        More water in the system will destroy some of the well established ocean currents that drives the weather on the planet and have caused some stability for the last 15000 years or so.

        • by Locutus (9039)
          sorry, no MOD points but what you said is the key. I just posted above too.

          LoB
      • by Locutus (9039) on Monday January 23, 2012 @09:08PM (#38800219)
        I read that too but I think it'll be a big game changer if the water circulation pump in the Atlantic gets messed up. I'd already read that lots of fresh water were are already detected further south than ever before. Lots of fresh water further south changes the current layering of water due to different densities of fresh vs salty water and that's what could screw things up.

        a change in those currents means a change in water temps and that means a change in weather patterns.

        It sure does seem like lots of stuff is melting all over the place and faster than "expected".

        LoB
    • by hey! (33014) on Monday January 23, 2012 @08:33PM (#38800001) Homepage Journal

      Well, not yet, and that's from somebody who thinks that anthropogenic climate change is probably a true hypothesis.

      For one thing the thinning or melting of sea ice itself has no direct effect on sea level -- just like melting ice cubes don't change the level of water in a glass. The picture the article paints is far more complex. In a nutshell, thinning Arctic ice may allow winds to mix colder surface water with warmer deep water. This would cause more ice thinning faster than changes in the atmosphere (if any) could drive change. Any effect on sea level would be indirect.

      What I'm much more concerned with is human responses to this development -- or rather *political* responses. Russia is making territorial claims in the Arctic Ocean based on some creative interpretation of international law, because they think that climate change may open the Arctic to resource exploration. If they find oil up there, there could be a polar conflict between Russia the US and strained relations between Canada and the US.

    • by eggstasy (458692)

      How much, in total, can ocean levels rise if all ice melts, including Antarctica and Greenland?
      I've read more than one estimate, but no real authoritative source.

      How much warmer does the atmosphere need to be?
      Any idea on how longer it would take, worst-case-scenario? 100 years?

      Thanks.

      • by countach (534280) on Monday January 23, 2012 @09:10PM (#38800245)

        I think its about 100 metres, which means half the current land masses would be underwater. As I understand it, this would be likely to take a thousand years to play out.

      • by riverat1 (1048260) on Monday January 23, 2012 @11:26PM (#38801049)

        If all of the ice on Greenland and Antarctica (and other lesser ice caps) were to melt it would cause a bit over 200 feet [usatoday.com] (~65 meters) of sea level rise. However, it would take thousands of years for all of that ice to melt The ice on Antarctica averages ~7,000 feet in depth and it's up to ~12,000 feet in places so it won't melt that fast at any temperature that still supports humans living on the Earth. Current estimates for sea level rise by 2100 are in the 3-6 foot range. 20 feet above the current level isn't inconceivable in 2200.

        Regarding what it would take to melt all of it, a paper out recently said that the big ice sheets started to form when CO2 levels dropped below 700 ppmv maybe 30 million years ago. We are currently at ~390 ppmv, up from 280 ppmv in 1830 and ~320 in 1960. At the current rate we would hit 700 ppmv in less than 200 years.

  • by Loopy (41728) on Monday January 23, 2012 @08:12PM (#38799797) Journal

    Note the large, friendly letters.

    Question seems to be, has this ever happened before? If it has, how would we know?

    • Maybe it happened around the end of the Ice Age... which is exactly the problem here. Ice melting and dumping into the ocean will trigger a chain reaction.

      • by ae1294 (1547521)

        which is exactly the problem here. Ice melting and dumping into the ocean will trigger a chain reaction.

        and the earth will go supercritical.

      • by sdguero (1112795)
        Or maybe it happened in 2001, since the only started monitoring this in 2002 when the new satellite went online.
    • by artor3 (1344997)

      Important addendum to the question:

      Has this ever happened before? If so, what were the effects?

      You seem to be implying that this might not be a problem because it could have happened before without us noticing. Maybe you're right. Or maybe it happened hundreds of thousands of years ago and caused some massive flooding that wasn't necessarily significant in an uncivilized world, but would be bad news for places like NYC.

      I agree it would be foolish to panic, but we should investigate what the effects of th

    • Re:Don't panic. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by sincewhen (640526) on Monday January 23, 2012 @08:22PM (#38799915)

      No, that is not the question.

      The question is, what could happen, how likely is it, and how would it affect us.

      I don't know if you are being a denier, but I'm now getting more tired of hearing from the "I don't have to care if it's Nature" crowd as I am from the "Oh no we are hurting Gaia, humans deserve to die out" crowd.

      Why can't we all agree that shit is happening and we should investigate what to do about it?

      • by spud603 (832173)
        Thank you. Regardless of the origin of the changes to the climate, they are real and potentially devastating. If they are largely caused by our behavior, then maybe we can help mitigate by changing our behavior asap. But that doesn't change the fact that we'll all want to figure out something to do about the changes as they're already being realized.
      • Re:Don't panic. (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) on Monday January 23, 2012 @09:23PM (#38800333) Homepage Journal

        Why can't we all agree that shit is happening and we should investigate what to do about it?

        Because it has become an article of nigh-religious faith among a large number of otherwise rational people to insist that it's not happening, or if it happening it's not our fault, or even if it is happening and it's our fault there's nothing we can do about it. Sometimes all three at once. As the saying goes, "You can't reason people out of a position they didn't reason themselves into."

    • by Rockoon (1252108)

      The gyre appears to indicate that the ice is becoming thin enough over the Arctic Ocean that the wind is beginning to affect the motion of water under the ice.

      I'm quite certain that not only has this not happened before, its not happening now. The summary must not state what the article states, because wind is not magical stuff that teleports through ice in order to transfer its momentum to water underneath it.

      • Re:Don't panic. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by artor3 (1344997) on Monday January 23, 2012 @08:37PM (#38800023)

        I don't even need to read the article to recognize the flaw in your thinking.

        Wind blows water in the parts of the ocean not covered by ice. That water pushes on other water, which is under ice. Tada! Wind affects water under the ice, no magic required!

  • Earth is a "he". Who knew?

  • by dbreeze (228599) on Monday January 23, 2012 @08:24PM (#38799929)

    I'm way behind schedule on my plans to gather everything up and git my ass to the mountains before it all goes to hell. Anyone interested in swapping some land up the hill a ways for some coastal Carolina soon to be beachfront property?

  • Thermohaline (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 23, 2012 @08:27PM (#38799943)

    Read more about the thermo-haline cycle on Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thermohaline_circulation [wikipedia.org].

  • Yeah, but. (Score:5, Funny)

    by The Askylist (2488908) on Monday January 23, 2012 @08:27PM (#38799945)
    I'll only start worrying if this gyre starts to gimble in the wabe.
  • Blame Russia (Score:2, Interesting)

    by WillAffleckUW (858324)

    According to recent research, a large quantity of Russian rivers that flow North are dumping unusually high amounts of fresh water into the Arctic Ocean.

    Either that or Dick Cheney cause it's all due to Global Warming.

  • by codepunk (167897)

    It's true the world is doomed it is 2012.

  • Then we could solve all our water needs... but we don't have any sort of storage/transportation system to do that sort of thing, let alone one large enough to capture a reasonable portion. Unless you had millions of people at a time flock to the place with water bottles and pitchers.

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