The Arctic Ocean began warming decades earlier than previously thought, new research shows
(CNN)The Arctic Ocean has been warming since the onset of the 20th century, decades earlier than instrument observations would suggest, according to new research.
The study, published Wednesday in the journal Science Advances, found that the expansion of warm Atlantic Ocean water flowing into the Arctic, a phenomenon known as "Atlantification," has caused Arctic water temperature in the region studied to increase by around 2 degrees Celsius since 1900.
Francesco Muschitiello, an author on the study and assistant professor of geography at the University of Cambridge, said the findings were worrisome because the early warming suggests there might be a flaw in the models scientists use to predict how the climate will change.
"The Arctic Ocean has been warming up for much longer than we previously thought," Muschitiello told CNN. "And this is something that's a bit unsettling for many reasons, especially because the climate models that we use to cast projections of future climate change do not really simulate these type of changes."
The researchers used marine sediments in the Fram Straight, where the Atlantic meets the Arctic east of Greenland, to reconstruct 800 years of data that paint a longer historical picture of how Atlantic water has flowed into the Arctic. The marine sediments are "natural archives," the researchers wrote, which record data on past climate conditions.
Researchers found temperature and salinity, the saltiness of ocean water, remained fairly constant up until the 20th century -- then they suddenly increased.
"The reconstructions suggest a substantial increase in the Atlantic Ocean heat and salt transport into the Nordic Sea at the beginning of the 20th century, which is not well simulated by (climate models)," Rong Zhang, a senior scientist at NOAA's Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, who was not involved with the study, told CNN.
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