"How a Wayward Arctic Current Could Cool the Climate in Europe"

"The Beaufort Gyre, a key Arctic Ocean current, is acting strangely. Scientists say it may be on the verge of discharging a huge amount of ice and cold freshwater that could kick off a period of lower temperatures in northern Europe."

"For millennia, the Beaufort Gyre — a massive wind-driven current in the Arctic Ocean — has been regulating climate and sea ice formation at the top of the world. Like a giant spinning top, the gyre corrals vast amounts of sea ice. Trapped in this clockwise swirl, the ice has historically had more time to thicken than it generally does in other parts of the Arctic Ocean, where currents such as the Trans Polar Drift transport the ice into the warmer north Atlantic more rapidly. In this way, the Beaufort Gyre — located north of Alaska and Canada’s Yukon Territory — has helped create the abundant layers of sea ice that, until recently, covered large parts of the Arctic Ocean year-round.

These days, however, something is amiss with this vital plumbing system in the Arctic, a region warming faster than any other on the planet. Thanks in part to rising air temperatures, steadily disappearing sea ice, and the annual melting of 270 billion tons of ice from Greenland’s ice cap, the gyre is no longer functioning as it has predictably done for more than a half century. And now, scientists are anticipating that a sudden change in the Beaufort Gyre could set in motion events that — in a steadily warming world — would actually lead to a temporary but significant cooling of the North Atlantic region."

Ed Struzik reports for Yale Environment 360 December 11, 2017.

Source: YaleE360, 12/18/2017