A new study demonstrates how the jet stream is transforming the Arctic as an ocean that barely was two centuries ago has a record polar ocean this winter.
Published in the journal Nature, the study tracked the development of underwater regions north of Greenland that are warm enough to simulate the Earth’s oceans, a transformation that has accelerated rapidly in the past 30 years.
The melting, environmental changes and glacial retreat have already increased the depths of the Arctic Ocean, which has increased the circulation of cold and warm water over the ocean and caused the jet stream to slide north, slow down and carry less heat and moisture from south to north. The analysis of the jet stream’s movement from study to study is useful in predicting long-term conditions.
“This warming of the Arctic Ocean is occurring at a greater magnitude and more rapidly than we’ve observed before,” University of Washington associate professor Mark Serreze said in a release. Serreze directed a collaboration of several groups, including the National Snow and Ice Data Center, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the National Center for Atmospheric Research, that authored the study.
The warmer ocean water in the Arctic Ocean is increasing sunlight through increased absorption of heat. This warming has caused a change in the way ice forms, melting more before the ice cover becomes more thick and forming a thinner layer of ice to wrap around the coastline.
Another change caused by the warming is a rise in temperature of Lake Vostok, the largest of the shrinking continental shelf in the Arctic Ocean. The rise in temperature affects how water and air currents are affected by the ice.
The changes have been recorded on satellite imagery from the 1970s to the present and on satellite data taken over the past 30 years. “It’s the worst one we’ve seen since we started studying it,” Serreze said.