Heated exchange

Published: Monday 31 March 1997

THE Arctic is in the midst of a major climatic shift, warn Arctic scientists who have written to the US National Science Foundation (NSF) urging it to support a monitoring programme. No one knows whether it is a consequence of global warming or part of a natural climatic change. James Morrison and his colleagues from the Polar Sciences Centre at the University of Washington, US, revealed that the Arctic Ocean now contained more water - flowing in from the relatively warm Atlantic than in the late 1980s. As a result, the boundary between Atlantic waters and the cooler Pacific waters had shifted.

The researchers also detected large regions of water - over the Lomonosov and Mendeleyev ridges on the seabed - which were warmer by 1oC than other regions of the Arctic Ocean. "Change in temperature by 1oC is a very significant change," says Tom Pyle, head of the NSF's Arctic sciences section. Meanwhile, patterns of wind and atmospheric pressure over the Arctic too has changed. In every year since 1988, atmospheric pressure over the Arctic has been declining.

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