The Gulf Stream, an ocean current carrying warm and salty seawater to the coast of Iceland, contributing to an unusually mild climate for the island’s latitude and fertile fishing grounds, is slowing down, according to a study published in Nature online on Tuesday.
The study, featuring the effect of climate change on ocean currents and relating environmental effects, was carried out by Stefan Rahmstorf and others. It reveals that excessive amounts of freshwater in the North Atlantic Ocean, caused by the melting of polar ice, have slowed down the natural flow of the Gulf Stream.
Oceanographer Héðinn Valdimarsson at the Icelandic Marine Research Institute, told ruv.is that the study’s results didn’t come as a surprise, as they coincide with the cooling of the ocean temperatures during the so-called sea ice years of 1965-1971, which are referenced in the study.
The melting of an unusually large amount of sea ice 40 years ago caused cold and unsalted water to circulate in the North Atlantic Ocean.
However, the Icelandic Marine Research Institute’s specialists haven’t noticed an increased amount of freshwater in the ocean around Iceland in consistency with the increased melting of polar ice in the past two decades; it’s only in the past two to three years that cooling and fresher conditions in the ocean have been registered, Héðinn stated.
Héðinn pointed out that the Gulf Stream is also driven by winds.