Study: Earth’s Polar Regions Communicate Via Oceanic “Postcards,” Atmospheric “Text Messages”


The new research documents how the North Atlantic communicates these extreme events to Antarctica, at the opposite side of the world.

Scientists have documented a two-part climatic connection between the North Atlantic Ocean and Antarctica, a fast atmospheric channel and a much slower oceanic one, that caused rapid changes in climate during the last ice age – and may again.

In a new study published this week in Nature, an international team of scientists describe how extremely abrupt climate change events 60,000 to 12,000 years ago came from the repeated strengthening and weakening of an oceanic current that warms Greenland and Europe by bringing warm water from the tropics via the Gulf Stream into the North Atlantic Ocean. That current is known as the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC).

“The North Atlantic is sending messages to Antarctica on two different time scales,” said Christo Buizert, an Oregon State University climate change specialist and lead author on the study. “The atmospheric connection is like a text message that arrives right away, while the oceanic one is more like a postcard that takes its time getting there – in this case, 200 years, which makes the postal service look pretty good by comparison.

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