Satellite Imagery Confirm Strengthening Ocean Eddies, Devastating Effect on CO2 Absorption

It is widely known that global warming has profound impacts on oceans and contributes to sea-level rise. Recently, a study used satellite imagery to confirm the strengthening of ocean eddies that could devastatingly disrupt the oceans’ CO2 absorption capability.

Scientists used three decades of data on how the speeds of ocean currents have changed over time and still continues to do so. Published in the journal Nature Climate Change, the research revealed that ocean eddies have been strengthening over time and have significant implications for climate change.

The amount of energy in the ocean current, known as eddies that can range from 10km to 100km across, has increased. This change has yet unknown effects on the ocean’s ability to soak carbon dioxide and heat from fossil fuels burning.

Strengthening Ocean Eddies to Disrupt CO2 Absorption, Study Finds

A study used satellite imagery to confirm the strengthening of ocean eddies that could disrupt the oceans’ CO2 absorption capability | Image: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio

According to experts, the findings of the study have implications that could affect the capacity of the Southern Ocean, one of the world’s biggest natural carbon stores, to absorb CO2. The study analyzed the temperature and height of the ocean with help of data from altimeters on satellite from 1993 until 2020.

Eddies are like weather events in the oceans happening from the surface down to a depth of several hundred meters. The study found that these weather-like events of oceans have been intensifying in places.

According to Dr. Janet Sprintall, an oceanographer at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California, who was not involved in the research,

The world’s oceans soak up most of the carbon dioxide that humans dump into the atmosphere. The Southern Ocean in particular absorbs about 40% of the entire ocean uptake and much of that uptake is achieved by ocean eddies. This could have devastating effects on global society.

The research also found changes in the southern Atlantic and the East Australia Current. A significant increase in eddy strength over the Southern Ocean, as well as important changes in their activity over the boundary currents – the intense flows of water along the boundaries of the major ocean basins, such as the Gulf Stream and the East Australian Current.

Ocean eddies are an integral part of ocean circulation. As they help move warm and cold waters from one place to another, mix heat, carbon, salt and nutrients, the increased energy of eddies could disrupt the entire oceanic currents.

Via: The Conversation 

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