Nov 25, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Study: Arctic Ocean started warming much earlier than previously thought

Icebergs are seen in the Arctic Ocean off the Franz Josef Land archipelago.
Icebergs are seen in the Arctic Ocean off the Franz Josef Land archipelago on August 20, 2021. Photo: Ekaterina Anisimova/AFP via Getty Images

The Arctic Ocean has warmed by about 2 degrees Celsius since 1900 and started getting hotter much earlier than researchers previously thought, a new study found.

Driving the news: The research, published Wednesday in Science Advances, shows that the Arctic Ocean began warming early last century as warmer and saltier waters flowed in from the Atlantic — a process known as "Atlantification."

Details: Researchers looked at marine sediment from the Fram Strait, which is where the Atlantic meets the Arctic.

  • They reconstructed 800 years of data of how the Atlantic water has flowed into the arctic and found the temperature and salinity, the saltiness of ocean water, remained fairly constant until suddenly starting to increase in the early 20th century, CNN reported.

The big picture: The data about Arctic warming has implications for global sea-level rise as well as the models researchers have been using to predict climate change.

What they're saying: “The rate of warming in the Arctic is more than double the global average, due to feedback mechanisms,” said co-lead author Dr. Francesco Muschitiello from Cambridge’s Department of Geography.

  • “Based on satellite measurements, we know that the Arctic Ocean has been steadily warming, in particular over the past 20 years, but we wanted to place the recent warming into a longer context."
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