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How Warm Gulf Stream Water Sustains a Cold Underwater Waterfall

Authors
  • Semper, Stefanie1, 2, 3
  • Glessmer, Mirjam S.1
  • Våge, Kjetil1, 2
  • Pickart, Robert S.3
  • 1 Geophysical Institute, University of Bergen, Bergen , (Norway)
  • 2 Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research, Bergen, Norway , (Norway)
  • 3 Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Falmouth, MA , (United States)
Type
Published Article
Journal
Frontiers for Young Minds
Publisher
Frontiers Media SA
Publication Date
Jul 06, 2022
Volume
10
Identifiers
DOI: 10.3389/frym.2022.765740
Source
Frontiers
Keywords
Disciplines
  • Earth and its Resources
  • New Discovery
License
Green

Abstract

The most famous ocean current, the Gulf Stream, is part of a large system of currents that brings warm water from Florida to Europe. It is a main reason for northwestern Europe’s mild climate. What happens to the warm water that flows northward, since it cannot just pile up? It turns out that the characteristics of the water change: in winter, the ocean warms the cold air above it, and the water becomes colder. Cold seawater, which is heavier than warm seawater, sinks down to greater depths. But what happens to the cold water that disappears from the surface? While on a research ship, we discovered a new ocean current that solves this riddle. The current brings the cold water to an underwater mountain ridge. The water spills over the ridge as an underwater waterfall before it continues its journey, deep in the ocean, back toward the equator.

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