Ocean Currents: Global Warming

music
ambience: ocean surf

In the southern oceans, there is a phenomenon – a pathway of water, which helps circulate nutrients throughout all the oceans of our planet. The question is, what effect might global warming have on this phenomenon? I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet.

Jorge Sarmiento is a professor at Princeton University. With the help of computer models and years of observations, he and his colleagues have determined that if this phenomenon – called the ‘subantarctic mode water’ – were to somehow shut down, the effects on the world’s oceans would be devastating. But is that the scenario that would result from global warming?

“I don’t think we can evaluate very well yet the potential impacts that global warming might have on the supply of nutrients by the subantarctic mode water. We really do not know yet. What our study shows is that this is a place where we have to go to understand what’s going on because it is so critically important. And what it also shows, I think, is that in as much as one process in a fairly small region of the world ocean seems to be so critical for nutrient supply to the rest of the world ocean, then one could speculate there is somewhat more of a possibility that this could be affected by climate change. If the processes by which biological production is driven are global in scale, then one would suspect that it would be much harder for climate change to have an impact. But this is a small-scale phenomena in the southern ocean in a region which we, in general, see as being one of the areas very highly impacted by global change. So it’s just very, very important to understand what’s going on.”

To hear about our CD, please visit pulseplanet.com. Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation.

music

Ocean Currents: Global Warming

An ocean current in the southern ocean is critical for life world-wide.
Air Date:10/13/2010
Scientist:
Transcript:

music
ambience: ocean surf

In the southern oceans, there is a phenomenon - a pathway of water, which helps circulate nutrients throughout all the oceans of our planet. The question is, what effect might global warming have on this phenomenon? I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet.

Jorge Sarmiento is a professor at Princeton University. With the help of computer models and years of observations, he and his colleagues have determined that if this phenomenon - called the 'subantarctic mode water' - were to somehow shut down, the effects on the world's oceans would be devastating. But is that the scenario that would result from global warming?

"I don't think we can evaluate very well yet the potential impacts that global warming might have on the supply of nutrients by the subantarctic mode water. We really do not know yet. What our study shows is that this is a place where we have to go to understand what's going on because it is so critically important. And what it also shows, I think, is that in as much as one process in a fairly small region of the world ocean seems to be so critical for nutrient supply to the rest of the world ocean, then one could speculate there is somewhat more of a possibility that this could be affected by climate change. If the processes by which biological production is driven are global in scale, then one would suspect that it would be much harder for climate change to have an impact. But this is a small-scale phenomena in the southern ocean in a region which we, in general, see as being one of the areas very highly impacted by global change. So it's just very, very important to understand what's going on."

To hear about our CD, please visit pulseplanet.com. Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation.

music