A newfound cog in the Ocean conveyor

Posted: 03/24/2012 in all marine news

Oceanus –

A decade into the 21st century, scientists have confirmed the existence of a new and apparently crucial ocean current on the face of the Earth.

International teams led by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) oceanographer Bob Pickart verified the previously unknown current near Iceland in 2008 and returned in 2010 to determine how it is formed.

The current, called the North Icelandic Jet, is not merely a curiosity.

Though relatively narrow, it is an important cog in the global oceanic conveyor of currents that transports equatorial heat to the North Atlantic region and tempers its climate.

Learning how the current operates offers insights into potential monkey wrenches that could disrupt ocean circulation and lead to further climate changes.

Initial evidence for the unknown current came in 1999 when Héðinn Valdimarsson and Steingrímur Jónsson from the Icelandic Marine Research Institute (MRI) used instruments measuring water velocity to detect a flow of dense water north of Iceland.

But confirmation had to wait until 2008, when Pickart led a research cruise to the region aboard the WHOI research vessel Knorr.

Taking detailed measurements of water properties and velocity, Pickart and colleagues from WHOI, MRI, and the University of Bergen in Norway confirmed the North Icelandic Jet, publishing their findings in Nature Geoscience in 2011.

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