Monday, August 29, 2016

Seals Reveal Mysteries of Antarctic Sea Ice

In Antarctic winter conditions too harsh for research scientists, elephant seals fitted with sensors have collected ocean system data that raises climate change concerns.

Male elephant seals carrying satellite-linked sensors in Prydz Bay, Antarctica. (Image Credit: Clive R McMahon/Sydney Institute of Marine Science) Click to Enlarge.
Scientists have recruited the elephant seal – the bruiser of the pinniped world – to explore and report back on the dynamics of ocean currents in the Antarctic winter.

And the mammals have delivered a potentially ominous message:  because fresh water is melting from the sea ice, the density of southern ocean surface waters is significantly reduced.

If there is too dramatic a reduction, the all-important dense waters that descend to the depths and power the ocean conveyor system that drives circulation − and climate − could falter.
Antarctic bottom water
And the researchers report in Nature Communications journal that their study “highlights the susceptibility of Antarctic bottom water to increased freshwater input from the enhanced melting of the ice shelves, and ultimately the potential collapse of Antarctic bottom water formation in a warming climate”.

Read more at Seals Reveal Mysteries of Antarctic Sea Ice

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