Air Date: week of in march 27, 2020 stream/download this segment together an MP3 document

Ocean surface ar currents about the human being during the period from June 2005 through December 2007 close to the Gulf Stream. (Photo: NASA Goddard Photo and also Video, Flickr, CC by 2.0)

Ocean currents play an important role in redistributing nutrient-rich waters and also heat energy around the globe. New research from the Alfred Wegener Institute finds that an international warming is advertise these an essential parts that the s circulatory mechanism poleward. Amy Bower, a senior Scientist in ~ the Woods hole Oceanographic Institution, joins Living on earth’s Jenni Doering to discuss the affect shifting s currents can have top top fisheries, climate, and also more.

You are watching: A poleward moving ocean current is


CURWOOD: It’s living on Earth, I’m Steve Curwood.

Seventy percent the our world is comprised of the oceans, and also its significant currents move vital nutrients and also heat around the world. Because that instance, the Gulf currently warms the beaches that the east shore of the US and also then loops across the north Atlantic to bring a mild climate come the brother Isles. Now research from the Alfred Wegener institute finds that climate readjust is pushing several of these s currents closer come the poles. Amy Bower is a senior Scientist at the Woods feet Oceanographic Institution. She spoke through Living top top Earth’s Jenni Doering.

DOERING: So first Amy, I wanted to ask friend why are these ocean currents so essential to life on planet to the oceans, the health and wellness of the oceans, and additionally to life top top land.

BOWER: s currents room really crucial to life on Earth, both in the oceans and on land. They redistribute the heat and also energy the comes in from the sun, due to the fact that of the shape of the planet being a sphere. As you go to the north and also south poles. The sun rays space a bit of one angle and also so the power from the sunlight per square mile is less. If the s currents and also the environment did no take few of this extra warm that pertains to the equator and move it come the poles. The equator would get hotter and hotter and hotter and also the poles would get colder and colder, colder and also life together we recognize it could not exist. The s currents also transport nutrients and also dissolved oxygen which are essential for microscopic tree together. Grow in the top layers the the ocean where there"s sunlight and the oceans redistribute oxygen and also nutrients approximately to miscellaneous locations,

DOERING: can we take a step back and look extensively at exactly how the s currents occupational on Earth?

BOWER: ocean currents on earth are pushed in two various ways. One way is by the winds blowing end the oceans. This is the one the most human being would be acquainted with, because the winds are most crucial in driving the surface ar currents. And some of the currents they could be familiar with encompass the Gulf Stream, which flows northward turn off the east shore of the unified States. The second way is by distinctions in density when part waters in the s are denser than others the will force the denser waters to shot to relocate under the lighter waters. And that also generates particularly deep s currents.

DOERING: so what"s continue now based upon this brand-new research and also research in the previous on global ocean currents, and also how they"re moving poleward. Why is the happening?

Schematic diagram​ that the significant wind-driven ocean circulation (black arrows) and also their motion (white arrows) under an international warming. (Photo: © Yang Hu, Alfred-Wegener-Institut)

BOWER: Well, these authors argue and also show proof that since of the increasing heat, the winds in the setting are moving as well. They are shifting poleward. And because the winds are responsible for where the surface ar currents are, together those winds shift, the surface currents will also shift. And also so they space showing evidence that there has actually been a poleward shift of few of the best currents and the biggest covering the most area. There"s to be a shift. It"s a little shift, however they argue that it is one indication the bigger shifts to come in the future.

DOERING: and also what currents are we talking around that are shifting poleward?

BOWER: One instance of this poleward shifting currents that they controversy is what"s referred to as the western boundary currents. This are extensive currents ~ above the west. Western boundaries of all the major ocean basins in the phibìc Atlantic. That current is the Gulf Stream. And also there space others about in the southern hemisphere. And those western border currents and also their eastward extensions kind of out right into the middle of the s are what this authors space saying space pushing poleward. For this reason that method towards the north pole in the north Hemisphere and also towards the south pole in the southern hemisphere.

DOERING: Fascinating. For this reason I recognize these s currents, they"re huge. They"re basically invisible to the human eye, right? What kinds of tools have the right to scientists use to in reality study how they work and also how they"re moving poleward?

BOWER: There room multiple means the writer of this document have provided one of our most beneficial tools for researching the s on a an international scale. And also those room satellites paris overhead the measure the s temperature. They also indirectly measure up the s currents at the surface. They offer us the broadest feasible picture the what"s happening anywhere the globe at the exact same time, since every few days, you get a complete photo of the surface ar temperatures and also the surface currents.

DOERING: so we"ve currently heard a small bit around atmospheric changes because of climate change. And I"m curious about how that relates to the oceans, and how ocean currents relocating poleward how"s that going to impact hurricanes and other type of storms that we experience?

Climate fluctuations lead to shifts in s circulation the can cause fish populaces to rise and fall. (Photo: Deborah Friedman, Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0)

BOWER: The ocean currents, some of them carry a the majority of heat. And also the heat is the power for plenty of atmospheric storms. That includes hurricanes, cyclones, they have a lot of power from the heat lugged by the oceans, because the storms are more likely to build into serious storms where there"s an ext heat available. In that case, it"s not so much the transition in location, however just the physics warming that the currents may lead to stronger hurricanes.

DOERING: So just how could transforming ocean currents actually affect fisheries together well?

BOWER: ocean currents transport nutrients, how they transport those nutrients about determines whereby the most productive areas in the oceans are. For this reason if the ocean currents shift, that way they"re walk to lug their nutrient elsewhere. And so a fishery the was, depending upon the s transport the those nutrients to a particular region may uncover that those nutrient aren"t coming over there anymore. And that fishery will decline, the fishery might move come a different area, probably one near where world live, possibly not. Therefore again, if these currents transition around, the entirety ecosystem could change in stimulate to preserve or uncover an area where the temperatures they"re adapted to are maintained.

DOERING: to what level do girlfriend think that it might currently be as well late to stop some the these transforms that we"re seeing?

BOWER: ns think of the oceans as a gigantic flywheel the the Earth"s climate system. And that flywheel is gaining quite a little of momentum currently in a details direction the warming, i don"t believe there will ever be also late. This is an recurring issue. We should start now and maintain our efforts towards reducing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. As long as we save doing it, the climate will keep transforming and moving. It"s not going to reach a stable state. So the sooner we get started, the far better off we"ll be.

See more: Can Benedict Cumberbatch Play The Violin, How I Taught Sherlock Holmes To Play The Violin

CURWOOD: Amy Bower from the Woods feet Oceanographic institution speaking through Living ~ above Earth’s Jenni Doering.