Scientists from the University of Copenhagen have used elephant seals to collect marine data from Prydz Bay, an area in East Antarctica inaccessible to people.
The results of their three-year project have just been published in the science magazine Nature Communications.
Equipped with sensors to measure water temperature, pressure and salinity the elephant seals have obtained data indicating that melting ice on Antarctica is decreasing the salinity of the surrounding ocean, which may lead to the collapse of Antarctic bottom water formation.
Effects on global climate
This process can change the global ocean currents, which distribute hot and cold water around the globe.
“As the ocean absorbs and transports heat around the Earth, it could have an impact on our climate, but we do not yet know how,” Laura Herraiz Borreguero, a researcher from the Niels Bohr Institute at Copenhagen University and one of the authors of the new study, told magazine Videnskab.
According to Marit-Solveig Seidenkrantz, a professor at the department of geoscience at Aarhus University, Antarctic bottom water is very important as a driving force in ocean circulation, which is one of the most important processes that control and influence climate as well as fishing conditions.