The melting of glaciers around the world due to human caused climate change is something that a lot of us are familiar with. We’ve heard the arguments about how sea levels will rise and the like, but there are other, less discussed problems that could end up impacting the world sooner rather than later.
Take Greenland, or example. The salinity of the water surrounding Greenland is actually hugely important to the water currents work in the Atlantic, and it impacts currents at least as far south as the Gulf Stream.
The problem is that since 1990 the amount of freshwater melting into the ocean off the coasts of Greenland has increased by 50%. More than 5,000 cubic meters of freshwater has melted off the glaciers and into the sea than is normal.
That water changes the density of water in the area and can weaken the currents that flow south. Eventually, that could lead to a weaker Gulf Stream, which could have a lot of negative impacts on climate in the Northern Hemisphere, as well as trade patterns.
Luckily, the influx of freshwater hasn’t been as devastating as expected, since much of the water is getting caught up and flushed out by narrow, fast moving currents along he coast of North America.
As a result, the changes that the extra freshwater could be causing are being delayed. This is good, because it buys us some more time, but it doesn’t mean that the changes won’t come. Within a few decades we could see significant changes in the northern seas.
If, however, ice melt in Greenland continues to increase, as it has been and likely will, then those changes could be coming along sooner. Hopefully, knowing about this issue can help push scientists to find ways to slow that melt back down, and get policy makers to put those ideas into action.