Elephant seals help scientists study climate change

September 8, 2016
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Scientists say that elephant seals can be very helpful in gathering the data from the seas around Antarctica. The seals are assisting to oceanographers with the carrying the equipment to measure temperature, pressure, and salt content. The study published in journal Nature Communications.

Elephant seals help scientists study climate change in Antarctic. The ice melting dilutes the otherwise salty sea water, making it less salty and surface water — less dense respectively. This vicious process has the potential to interrupt global ocean circulation, which distributes cold and warm water around the Earth.

The data that they elephant seals collected so far indicate that melting ice in Antarctica is reducing the formation of dense-salty water at the bottom of the ocean–so-called bottom water formation–that drives ocean circulation.

According to the explanations of the co-author postdoc Laura Herraiz Borreguero, from the Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen, Denmark:

“The changes in formation of dense [bottom] water can change how water is transported around the globe. When the sea absorbs and transports heat around the Earth, it can influence our climate. But we still don’t know how”

Her colleague from the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland finds the results important, he noted that while the formation of salty bottom water is critical for driving circulation of water in the oceans, there is also the threat of increasing amounts of freshwater from increasing ice loss in Antarctica.

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