Melting Antarctic ice may strangle vital ocean currents

Models show that currents could slow by more than 40 percent within 30 years, with potentially devastating effects

Antarctica (Getty Images/Yvonne Wacht)

s Antarctic ice melts, all of that fresh water pours into the ocean, essentially diluting it by reducing its salinity. That, in turn, is dramatically slowing the currents that, like a conveyor belt, carry oxygen, carbon dioxide, and nutrients through the sea and around the world.

A study published last week in the journal Nature modeled the impacts of this phenomenon, called overturning circulation, on the deepest ocean currents, particularly in the southern hemisphere. It found that the world is on the verge of a potentially catastrophic slowdown, which could have a devastating effect on climate change, marine ecosystems, and the stability of Antarctic ice.

“Our modeling shows that if global carbon emissions continue at the current rate, then the Antarctic overturning will slow by more than 40 per cent in the next 30 years, and on a trajectory that looks headed towards collapse,” lead researcher Matthew England, an oceanographer and climate scientist at the University of New South Wales, said at a new conference announcing the findings, according to BBC.