Those who fear that the substantial summer season melt of the Arctic ice cap, from 1/3 open water to now 2/3 open water, may lessen the flow of the Gulf Stream do not know oceans. The operative term here is “seasonal.” Sea ice that melts in summer, freezes in winter. The formation of ice increases the concentration of salts left behind in the seawater. This cold salty water is the densest in the world. It sinks to propel the thermohaline circulation of the world’s ocean currents.
The energy moving more water volume is some of the energy trapped as heat by greenhouse gases from escaping into outer space. Global Warming directs instead more energy into extreme weather events, more extended droughts, more violent downpours, category 5 hurricanes with four times the fury of category 4 hurricanes, and more melting/freezing of sea ice.
A greater Gulf Stream was apparent in October 2011 when it meandered up onto the continental shelf closer to Rhode Island than ever before. Rivers meander to dissipate energy gained from cascading down a great height or, for the Gulf Stream, being squeezed and jetted between the Bahamas and mainland through the Florida Straits. Viewed from high above there is resemblance to a train crash with forward momentum energy dissipated by train cars zigzagging every which way.
End of the road for the Gulf Stream used to be Svalbard, an archipelago to the north of Norway where the Greenland Sea meets the Arctic Ocean. Until 2007 when warm Atlantic water surfaced and commenced the melting of glaciers in Svalbard’s fjords . This warm intermediate water continues north into the Arctic Ocean to circle counter-clockwise off Siberian Shores and on around to Greenland. This water gives off heat to the surface waters above, further contributing to the melt of the ice cap in summer. And thus, more ocean freeze pumping in winter.
The increased flow of cold nutrient-rich Labrador Current water from Greenland to New England is good for marine life. The other water masses, Slope Water, Shelf Water and surface waters do not compare in the amount of life giving properties at the bottom of the food chain.
Climate Change is nonetheless bad for the ocean because a third of the carbon in the atmosphere goes into solution to become carbonic acid. Because our carbon footprints are so large, the ocean is becoming more acidic. Already oyster farms have had to close because young oyster shells have dissolved.
The Ocean River Institute is launching a citizen-science monitoring, educating and advocating offshore ocean waters program called Seamount Guardians and Deep Sea Canyon Rangers. We begin with Oceanographer’s Canyon located 140 miles southeast of Nantucket where sperm whales live year round. We are looking for a few intrepid individuals to assist with satellite imagery to view surfacing whales and the presence of ships to stop ship strikes from killing whales in the NE Canyons and Seamounts National Marine Monument.