How an underwater ‘heat blob’ could be contributing to Arctic sea ice loss

A complex global system of ocean currents is bringing more heat to the Arctic.

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An underwater “heat blob” from the Atlantic is exacerbating the warming of the Arctic Ocean and contributing to the rapid disappearance of Arctic sea ice, according to a study published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

The study shows that the amount of heat transported to the Nordic Seas and Arctic Ocean by ocean currents has increased dramatically since 2001.

This poleward heat transport has been implicated as one possible cause of the warming of the Arctic Ocean and the rapid disappearance of Arctic sea ice.

As warm surface waters travel to regions further north, they lose heat and gain in salinity as freshwater evaporates.

[The Arctic Ocean is becoming more like the Atlantic and Pacific, studies say]

When warm Atlantic water reaches the Arctic, it sinks to form a “heat blob” because the cool, fresh water from the Arctic is less salty and thus more buoyant.

This facilitates the formation of sea ice over the ocean. However, the increased transmission of heat to northern latitudes could hinder sea ice formation.

Scientists call this phenomenon “Atlantification.”

(Video by Next Animation Studio.)