Ace up the sleeve by the ocean. The Galapagos Islands have a tool to fight climate change

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An ace up the ocean's sleeve. The Galapagos Islands have a climate change tool

The oceanic cold spot breathes life into the archipelago and allows it to become a haven for species that need to cool off in the midst of a warming ocean.

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The planet is warming inexorably as a result of global warming – almost all parts of the ocean are warming as a result of climate change. However, off the west coast of the Galapagos Islands there is a cool “oasis” – a patch of cold and nutrient-rich water, writes The Atlantic.

According to University of San Francisco de Quito marine ecologist Judith Denkinger, this thriving oceanic patch feeds phytoplankton and literally breathes life into the archipelago. The cool water helps support local populations of penguins, marine iguanas, lions and seals, as well as cetaceans that would simply not be able to stay at the equator all year round.

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Research shows that despite rising global ocean temperatures, this cool basin has cooled by about 0.5 degrees over the past four years. The Galápagos Islands have long been famous for their biodiversity, but scientists are wondering how long the cool pool effect in the middle of a warm ocean will last and whether it can further harbor marine species that will need a cold environment in the midst of a rapidly warming world. Scientists are optimistic.

In a new study, climatologists from the University of Colorado at Boulder, Chris Karnauskas and Donata Giglio, focused on studying the cold basin of the Galapagos Islands. They concluded that the cool “oasis” is a product of the island's topography and is unlikely to be harmed in any way by rising greenhouse gas concentrations.

Note that this is not the only cool basin in the ocean, there are others – for example, in the North Atlantic south of Greenland. Scientists suggest that it is caused by a weakening global current.

In addition, a similar effect is observed on other islands along the equator, which also have unusually cold water lying to the west of them. Karnaukas and Gaglio came to the conclusion that such cooling is caused by the collision of a deep ocean current and the islands that stand in its way.

In the course of the study, the scientists analyzed data from the last little more than two decades, based on observations of Argo buoys, as well as satellite and cruise observations. As a result, they were able to build temperature profiles around several equatorial islands and pinpoint the location of the equatorial undercurrent. It turned out that it moves eastward about 100 meters below the surface of the Pacific Ocean and is kept along the equator due to the inertial force caused by the rotation of the Earth.

The model the scientists built found that the cold equatorial current intensifies when it comes within 100 km west of the Galapagos Islands, presumably because they deflect it upwards. As a result, the water in this basin, on average, stays one degree below the rest of the ocean.

By the way, a similar effect is observed to the west of Gilbert Island in the western part of the ocean, however, according to studies, it is much weaker.

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Scientists also found that over the past few decades, the current has become deeper and stronger, and also deviated 10 km to the south, approaching the Galapagos Islands. As a result, there is a cooling in the local “oasis”, which has a positive effect on some marine species. However, there is a second side of the coin – scientists fear that the cooling of the local waters can also harm other animals. will be suppressed, but for some time, marine animals will still be protected.