Scientists from the Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany examined deep sea (between 2,000 metres and the sea floor) temperature records from between 1950 and 2010. The results indicated that over this period, water temperature had risen by 0.3°C. ‘
This sounds like a small number, but we need to see this in relation to the large mass of water that has been warmed,’ said the study’s lead author, Raquel Somavilla Cabrillo. ‘The amount of heat accumulated within the lowest 1.5 kilometres in the abyssal Greenland Sea would warm the atmosphere above Europe by 4°C.’
The warming of the deep regions of the Greenland Sea is caused by an imbalance in ocean circulation. During the past 30 years, the transfer of cold water to the deeper reaches has largely stopped, while relatively warm water has continued to flow in from the deep Arctic Ocean.
‘Due to its large volume and its thermal inertia, the deep ocean is a powerful heat buffer for climate warming,’ said one of the study’s co-authors, Ursula Schauer. ‘If we want to understand the role of the deep ocean in the climate system, we need to expand the measurements to remote regions such as the Arctic.’
This story was published in the November 2013 edition of Geographical Magazine