May 11, 2005 Scientists at the University of Liverpool are embarking on a research cruise to help them understand recent major changes in the temperature of the Atlantic.
Researchers at the University's Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences have been examining why ocean temperatures are rising within the tropics and mid-latitudes of the North Atlantic, but at the same time are decreasing at the ocean's high latitudes.
The research team, which also includes scientists from the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton and the University of East Anglia, are departing on a research cruise from Bermuda to establish the extent of the most recent temperature changes. Scientists will be assessing the temperature of the ocean at different depths and collecting water samples to identify levels of carbon dioxide in the ocean.
Professor Ric Williams, who is leading the study at the University of Liverpool, explains: "Our research indicates that the temperature changes in the Atlantic are influenced by changes in the atmospheric jet stream over the Atlantic. The jet stream changes in strength, influencing both the weather and the state of the oceans.
"Since the early 90s, the jet stream has been stronger, leading to stormy, wet weather in the UK. We also think this jet stream has led to the major temperature changes we are seeing in the Atlantic.
"What we don't yet know is how much can be linked to the greenhouse effect and how much is down to a natural phenomenon – we don't, for example, know if atmospheric changes in carbon dioxide could influence the path and strength of the jet stream.
"The data we collect from the research cruise will shed more light on why these changes in the ocean are taking place and help us assess what the implications might be for the environment and future generations."
Dr Elaine McDonagh from the National Oceanography Centre is leading the cruise. The research is funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).
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