Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Climate: New Spin On Ocean's Role

Date:
September 10, 2008
Source:
University of New South Wales
Summary:
New studies of the Southern Ocean are revealing previously unknown features of giant spinning eddies that are profoundly influencing marine life and the world's climate. These massive swirling structures -- the largest are known as gyres -- can be thousands of kilometers across and can extend down as deep as 500 meters or more, new research shows.

New studies of the Southern Ocean are revealing previously unknown features of giant spinning eddies that have a profound influence on marine life and on the world's climate.

These massive swirling structures – the largest are known as gyres - can be thousands of kilometres across and can extend down as deep as 500 metres or more, a research team led by a UNSW mathematician, Dr Gary Froyland, has shown in the latest study published in Physical Review Letters.

"The water in the gyres does not mix well with the rest of the ocean, so for long periods these gyres can trap pollutants, nutrients, drifting plants and animals, and become physical barriers that divert even major ocean currents," Dr Froyland says.

"In effect, they provide a kind of skeleton for global ocean flows. We're only just beginning to get a grip on understanding their size, scale and functions, but we are sure that they have a major effect on marine biology and on the way that heat and carbon are distributed around the planet by the oceans."

One of the best known large-scale gyres in the world's oceans is that associated with the Gulf Stream in the North Atlantic, notes fellow researcher Professor Matthew England, co-director of the UNSW Climate Change Research Centre.

"This current pumps massive amounts of heat towards Europe, warming the atmosphere and giving the region a relatively mild climate: to see how important that is, you only have to compare Portugal's climate to that of Nova Scotia, in Canada, which as roughly the same latitude," says Professor England.

"After releasing heat to the atmosphere the waters re-circulate toward the equator, where they regain heat and rejoin the flow into the Gulf Stream. In this way the ocean's gyres play a fundamental role in pumping heat poleward, and cooler waters back to the tropics. This moderates the planet's extremes in climate in a profound way, reducing the equator-to-pole temperature gradients that would otherwise persist on an ocean-free planet."

The East Australia Current has a similar, although more modest, impact on local climate on the Australia's east coast. Eddies also regulate biologically important properties such as nutrient upwelling to the surface. They are also fundamental in mixing heat across the Antarctic Circumpolar Current.

The Australian team is working with German colleagues at the University of Paderborn and the Technical University of Dresden. The team discovered last year that these gyres can escape detection by traditional observational methods, which concentrate on scrutinising average water flow or sea surface height.

Instead of monitoring flow in the ocean point by point, the team applied a mathematical technique known as Lagrangian analysis, which allowed them to take into account all possible current movements simultaneously and pick out the least intensive mixing regions. Using computer simulations, they found that this technique clearly identified where gyres and eddies trap drifting surface material in the seas near Antarctica.

The work is presently being extended to assess how the three-dimensional flow in the gyres extends deep down into the ocean. This will reveal their potential to influence climate and marine life, Dr Froyland says.

 


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of New South Wales. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of New South Wales. "Climate: New Spin On Ocean's Role." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 September 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/09/080909094745.htm>.
University of New South Wales. (2008, September 10). Climate: New Spin On Ocean's Role. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/09/080909094745.htm
University of New South Wales. "Climate: New Spin On Ocean's Role." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/09/080909094745.htm (accessed April 23, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

California Drought Is Good News for Gold Prospectors

California Drought Is Good News for Gold Prospectors

AFP (Apr. 22, 2014) — For months California has suffered from a historic drought. The lack of water is worrying for farmers and ranchers, but for gold diggers it’s a stroke of good fortune. With water levels low, normally inaccessible areas are exposed. Duration: 01:57 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: MN Lakes Still Frozen Before Fishing Opener

Raw: MN Lakes Still Frozen Before Fishing Opener

AP (Apr. 22, 2014) — With only three weeks until Minnesota's fishing opener, many are wondering if the ice will be gone. Some of the Northland lakes are still covered by up to three feet of ice, causing concern that just like last year, the lakes won't be ready. (April 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Is North Korea Planning Nuclear Test #4?

Is North Korea Planning Nuclear Test #4?

Newsy (Apr. 22, 2014) — South Korean officials say North Korea is preparing to conduct another nuclear test, but is Pyongyang just bluffing this time? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Nasa Gives You An Excuse to Post a Selfie on Earth Day

Nasa Gives You An Excuse to Post a Selfie on Earth Day

TheStreet (Apr. 22, 2014) — NASA is inviting all social media users to take a selfie of themselves alongside nature and to post it to Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Instagram, or Google Plus with the hashtag #globalselfie. NASA's goal is to crowd-source a collection of snapshots of the earth, ground-up, that will be used to create one "unique mosaic of the Blue Marble." This image will be available to all in May. Since this is probably one of the few times posting a selfie to Twitter won't be embarrassing, we suggest you give it a go for a good cause. Video provided by TheStreet
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