A visualization of the ocean currents can be seen by downloading the file “ocean_currents.kml” either from your course’s website or directly from the Science on a Sphere page from NOAA (sos.noaa.gov/kml/). Once you download the file you can open it within Google Earth. Once the file loads (which may take a few minutes), click on the wrench in the upper left corner of the screen to the left of the NOAA logo (Figure 6.9). Check the “loop animation” box and slide the cursor for animation speed to an intermediate position, then click OK. Then click the toggle animation icon (Figure 6.9) to start the animation. Watch the movement of the currents as they flow, making sure to examine the flow in different parts of the world and zoom out to get a broad perspective of the flow of the ocean currents around the world.
If you have difficulty loading the file you can also access the visualization at http://sos.noaa.gov/Datasets/dataset.php?id=130#. To access the visualization of the ocean currents click on “Interactive Sphere” and hit play, make sure to spin the globe to see the currents in the different oceans.
Part D – Ocean Currents and Heat Transport
8. Examine and describe the ocean currents flowing in the Atlantic Ocean from the equator to the North Pole starting from Brazil (6 08 54.55S 35 58 24.09W). Do these currents reach the northern polar ice sheet? If the tropics become warmer, how would this affect the northern ice sheet?
9. Examine and describe the ocean currents flowing in the Pacific Ocean from the equator to the South Pole starting from Somalia (0 32 32.23N 44 09 15.47E). Do these currents reach the southern polar ice sheet? If the tropics become warmer, how would this affect the southern ice sheet?
10. Based on your answer to questions eight and nine, explain why we see different trends in the sea ice extent in the south (Part B) and north poles (Part C).
11. How might the changes you saw in the previous exercises relate to global albedo, sea level, ocean salinity, and temperature?
Part E – Conclusions
Making conclusions, let alone policy decisions, regarding any complex system such as climate and how it is changing is difficult. You can see how completely accurate data can be misrepresented as well as how accurate data out of context (ice extent without understanding ocean currents) may lead you to an incorrect conclusion. It is important to base any conclusion on rational, accurate, complete, and in context data, rather than data that has been poorly collected or misrepresented. Most importantly, it is important to come to your own conclusions regarding data rather than being swayed by the opinion of the author presenting the data, which is true both in science as well as many other aspects of your life.
12. Do you think any conclusions (if any) regarding climate change should be made based on the data presented in this assignment?
13. What data do you think are needed to make a conclusion regarding climate change?