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article imageThe Florida Current has been weakening during the past century

By Karen Graham     Aug 9, 2020 in Environment
New research suggests the strength of the Florida Current, which forms the beginning of the Gulf Stream, has weakened considerably over the last century.
Originating the South Atlantic and Caribbean Ocean, the Florida Current is formed when the Gulf of Mexico Loop Current and the Yucatan Current come together. The strong current that is formed carries warm water from the Caribbean East through the narrow, shallow Florida Straits between Florida and Cuba - The current's northern journey marks the headwaters of the Gulf Stream.
Not only does the Florida Current carry heated water, salt, momentum, and other properties essential to the coral reefs that abound in the Florida Keys, the current is also a vital part of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) and plays a part in influencing Earth's climate.
According to a research paper published in Nature Communications on August 7, a key component of the Gulf Stream has markedly slowed over the past century.
Map showing current patterns throughout the Florida Keys. Note how clockwise and counterclockwise gy...
Map showing current patterns throughout the Florida Keys. Note how clockwise and counterclockwise gyres exist shoreward of the Florida Current.
NOAA
"In the ocean, almost everything is connected," said Christopher Piecuch, an assistant scientist in the Physical Oceanography Department at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and the sole author of the study, according to the UPI.
"We can use those connections to look at things in the past or far from shore, giving us a more complete view of the ocean and how it changes across space and time."
Piecuch, who specializes in regional and coastal sea level change, wanted to better understand the historical changes in the current, and decided to focus his study on the relationship between coastal sea levels and the strength of near-shore currents.
The Gulf Stream is caused by a large system of circular currents and powerful winds  called an ocean...
The Gulf Stream is caused by a large system of circular currents and powerful winds, called an oceanic gyre. There are five oceanic gyres on Earth. The Gulf Stream is part of the North Atlantic Subtropical Gyre. This strong current of warm water influences the climate of the east coast of Florida, keeping temperatures there warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer than the other southeastern states. Since the Gulf Stream also extends toward Europe, it warms western European countries as wel
NOAA SciJinks
Luckily, there are nearly continuous records of sea-level readings that stretch back over a hundred years along Florida's Atlantic Coast and in some parts of the Caribbean. Piecuch used mathematical models and simple physics to extend the reach of direct measurements of the Gulf Stream to conclude that it has weakened steadily and is weaker now than at any other point in the past 110 years.
It is significant that Piecuch's analysis agrees with relationships seen in models between the deeper branches of the AMOC and the Gulf Stream, and it corroborates studies suggesting that the deeper branches of AMOC have slowed in recent years, reports Phys.org.
"If we can monitor something over the horizon by making measurements from shore, then that's a win for science and potentially for society," said Piecuch.
More about florida current, Gulf stream, coastel sea level, ocean current models, Climate change
 
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