Scientists have observed record high temperatures around the world all summer long. People everywhere are suffering from the intense heat, and the higher temps have contributed to the increasing western drought, wildfires, and all manner of environmental destruction. All points on the globe seem to be hitting new peaks on the thermostat, except for one. There is a curious cold spot in a map of ever-warming ocean waters, showing a “blob” of cooler-than-expected water in the northern Atlantic Ocean, and it has climate scientists more than just a little freaked out.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported data from the first eight months of the year that illustrates the severity of rising global land and ocean temperatures. An area just south of Greenland and Iceland actually registered the coldest months in recorded history. How can one spot on earth be getting colder, while the rest of the globe is heating up?
Related: We just made it through the hottest summer in recorded history
The answer may be simple, and it’s definitely sad. The cold spot in the Atlantic is likely a symptom of a problem climate scientists have been fearing for years. Record cold temps in this condensed area of the ocean suggests that the circulation of water currents in the Atlantic is slowing. Warm and cold water should be mixing to normalize water temperatures, but the currents are functioning the way they need to. They rely on differences in temperature and salinity, which basically means that cold salty water in the North Atlantic sinks (it’s really dense) and warmer southern waters move northward to take its place. When a large influx of cold, fresh water is introduced to the picture, the system goes haywire and the water circulation patterns are weakened because the sinking doesn’t occur. And where is the fresh water coming from? The melting glaciers, of course. If the trend continues, it could mean rising sea levels along the East Coast and a change in temperature for Europe and North America.
+ Exceptional 20th century slowdown in Atlantic Ocean overturning circulation
Via Washington Post
Images via NOAA and Shutterstock