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Solar Activity Blamed For Greenland Cooling

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American Geophysical Union

The sun’s activity could be affecting a key ocean circulation mechanism that plays an important role in regulating Greenland’s climate, according to a new study.

The phenomenon could be partially responsible for cool temperatures the island experienced in the late 20th century and potentially lead to increased melting of the Greenland ice sheet in the coming decades, the new research suggests.

Scientists have sought to understand why Greenland cooled during the 1970s through the early 1990s while most of the Northern Hemisphere experienced rising temperatures as a result of greenhouse warming.

The new study suggests high solar activity starting in the 1950s and continuing through the 1980s played a role in slowing down ocean circulation between the South Atlantic and the North Atlantic oceans. Combined with an influx of fresh water from melting glaciers, this slow-down halted warm water and air from reaching Greenland and cooled the island while temperatures rose across the rest of the Northern Hemisphere, according to the new study accepted for publication in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union.

The new research also suggests weak solar activity, like the sun is currently experiencing, could slowly fire up the ocean circulation mechanism, increasing the amount of warm water and air flowing to Greenland.

Starting around 2025, temperatures in Greenland could increase more than anticipated and the island’s ice sheet could melt faster than projected, according to Takuro Kobashi, a climate scientist with the Department of Climate and Environmental Physics at the University of Bern in Switzerland and lead author of the new study.

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