The Arctic Ocean is one of the main sources of global climate stability. But, the sea at the northern end of the planet Land has been suffering more and more with the melting of Ice present on the spot. Now, finally, scientists have discovered one of the most responsible for the problem: heat pumps.

These so-called heat pumps were discovered in a study by the oceanography institution at the University of California at San Diego. They are formed by water inlet, from the Pacific Ocean, through the Bering Strait. The research was published in the journal Nature Communications.


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First, the researchers observed that the melting of ice in the Arctic happens at a higher speed than predicted in models. Through the Arctic Stratified Dynamics Program (Soda) from the Office of Naval Research, they used a combination of instruments, satellite observations and floating data to understand the complications.

In the research, the scientists showed that the "plumes" of hot water accelerate the melting under the ice. To understand this, it is necessary to first understand that the Arctic Ocean has a slightly different characteristic: the dense layers of marine waters are controlled more by salinity than by temperature.

Thus, rivers and melted ice form a layer of fresh and cold water on the surface of the ocean. Most oceans, however, have water hot and lighter near the surface, while the denser and colder ones are at the bottom.

The problem at sea in the far north comes with hot water. The warm, salty and dense volume of the Pacific enters "plunging", or sinking, under the surface of the Arctic. The mixture generated by this plume attracts nutrients to the surface and stimulates the growth of phytoplankton.

The pockets of very hot water form under the surface, for months or even years, and circulate in swirls, rotating while interacting with the surrounding waters. These whirlpools are called heat pumps. They go around the Arctic and accelerate the melting of that ocean's ice, from below and, slowly, spread the heat upwards.

In the video below, in English, you can see the models that show how the heat pumps work:

In addition to showing that heat pumps are one of the mechanisms that are changing the Arctic Ocean faster than anywhere else on the planet, the results of the study add evidence that the local ice can disappear in large chunks annually.

“The pace of accelerating ice melting in the Arctic has been difficult to predict accurately, in part because of all the complex local feedbacks between the ice, the ocean and the atmosphere. This work shows the great role in warming that ocean water plays as part of these feedbacks, ”said Jennifer MacKinnon, a physical oceanographer who led the article.

Twenty-nine scientists were involved in the research. In addition to the members of the University of California at San Diego, collaborators from the United Kingdom and Germany helped with the work.