Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Columbia Research Sheds Light On Inter-ocean And Ocean-atmosphere Dynamics

Date:
October 24, 2003
Source:
The Earth Institute At Columbia University
Summary:
Scientists at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory have found that currents connecting the Indian and Pacific Oceans are colder and deeper than originally believed. This discovery may one day help climate modelers predict the intensity of the Asian monsoon or El Nino with greater accuracy and with more lead-time than is currently possible.

Scientists at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory have found that currents connecting the Indian and Pacific Oceans are colder and deeper than originally believed. This discovery may one day help climate modelers predict the intensity of the Asian monsoon or El Nino with greater accuracy and with more lead-time than is currently possible.

The findings by Arnold Gordon, R. Dwi Susanto and Kevin Vranes appear in the October 23 issue of the journal Nature. Their work is the first to combine comprehensive temperature and velocity measurements of an ocean current known as the Indonesian throughflow (ITF) with regional wind data to provide a comprehensive picture of how an important piece of the ocean-atmosphere-climate puzzle works.

"Before now, most people thought the ITF was mostly on the surface," said Vranes, a former graduate student at Lamont. "Our work shows that the majority of the water flows in the thermocline about 300m below the surface, which makes the overall average flow colder than assumed."

The ITF is a network of currents that carry tropical Pacific Ocean water into the Indian Ocean through the straits and passages of the Indonesian Archipelago. On average, the ITF flows at a rate of 10 million cubic meters per second (nearly 3 trillion gallons per second), or more than 50 times the average flow of the Amazon River.

The ITF is unique among the world's inter-ocean currents because it is the only one that exchanges tropical waters between two oceans-all other ocean interchanges occur in the extreme northern or southern latitudes, where the water is already very cold. As a result, the ITF is thought to be an important factor in governing the exchange of heat between the Indian and Pacific Oceans and, consequently, between the oceans and the atmosphere.

"The ocean may very well act as a pace maker to the El Nino and the Asian monsoon," said Gordon, the lead author on the study. "Which means we might one day be able to predict the intensity of the monsoon a year ahead of time by monitoring the Indonesian throughflow."

Previously, scientists thought most of the water moving between the Pacific and the Indian Ocean did so on or near the surface, where water temperatures hover around 75°F (24°C). However, using two long-term measuring stations moored in Indonesia's Makassar Strait, Gordon and the other researchers examined water flow, temperature and salinity from the surface of the strait to the bottom between December 1996 and June 1997. They found that the bulk of the water passing through the strait, which funnels more than 90 percent of the ITF, flowed well below the surface where it could not be warmed by the atmosphere. As a result, it averaged about 59°F (15°C).

Gordon and the others then examined regional wind patterns for the same period. They found that prevailing winds from January to February and again between May and June blow large rafts of buoyant fresh water into areas that effectively block surface water from contributing to the ITF. This, they believe, forces the overall flow to run much deeper and colder than previously thought.

"Before the heat transfer between the Pacific and Indian Oceans was essentially a guess," said Gordon. "Now we have data."

###

This research is supported by the National Science Foundation, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the Office of Naval Research.

The Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, a member of The Earth Institute at Columbia University, is one of the world's leading research centers examining the planet from its core to its atmosphere, across every continent and every ocean. From global climate change to earthquakes, volcanoes, environmental hazards and beyond, Observatory scientists provide the basic knowledge of Earth systems needed to inform the future health and habitability of our planet. For more information, visit http://www.ldeo.columbia.edu.

The Earth Institute at Columbia University is the world's leading academic center for the integrated study of Earth, its environment, and society. The Earth Institute builds upon excellence in the core disciplines -earth sciences, biological sciences, engineering sciences, social sciences and health sciences - and stresses cross-disciplinary approaches to complex problems. Through its research training and global partnerships, it mobilizes science and technology to advance sustainable development, while placing special emphasis on the needs of the world's poor. For more information, visit http://www.earth.columbia.edu.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by The Earth Institute At Columbia University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

The Earth Institute At Columbia University. "Columbia Research Sheds Light On Inter-ocean And Ocean-atmosphere Dynamics." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 October 2003. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/10/031024062832.htm>.
The Earth Institute At Columbia University. (2003, October 24). Columbia Research Sheds Light On Inter-ocean And Ocean-atmosphere Dynamics. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/10/031024062832.htm
The Earth Institute At Columbia University. "Columbia Research Sheds Light On Inter-ocean And Ocean-atmosphere Dynamics." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/10/031024062832.htm (accessed July 30, 2014).

Share This




More Earth & Climate News

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

In Virginia, the Rise of a New Space Coast

In Virginia, the Rise of a New Space Coast

AP (July 30, 2014) — Every summer, tourists make the pilgrimage to Chincoteague Island, Va. to see wild ponies cross the Assateague Channel. But, it's the rockets sending to supplies to the International Space Station that are making this a year-round destination. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Climate Change Could Cost Billions, According To White House

Climate Change Could Cost Billions, According To White House

Newsy (July 29, 2014) — A report from the White House warns not curbing greenhouse gas emissions could cost the U.S. billions. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Climate Change Could Cost Billions According To White House

Climate Change Could Cost Billions According To White House

Newsy (July 29, 2014) — A report from the White House warns not curbing greenhouse gas emissions could cost the U.S. billions. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Jane Goodall Warns Great Apes Face Extinction

Jane Goodall Warns Great Apes Face Extinction

AFP (July 29, 2014) — The world's great apes face extinction within decades, renowned chimpanzee expert Jane Goodall warned Tuesday in a call to arms to ensure man's closest relatives are not wiped out. Duration: 00:58 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins