11 June 2004

Arctic Ocean probe to predict ice age

Scientists are to drill the deepest hole yet under the Arctic Ocean to investigate whether global warming would plunge Europe into an ice age.

Cores of seabed sediment will be taken 500 metres (1,640ft) down in an underwater mountain chain called the Lomonosov Ridge, 1,243 miles off the coast of Norway. The scientists aim to reconstruct how the Arctic has altered over the past 50m years.

The region plays a crucial role in regulating the Earth's climate, and the scientists hope that discovering when its permanent coat of sea ice appeared will help with predictions of what the future holds.

'The whole of the deep Arctic Ocean remains unexplored at depth and all of its scientific wonders remain unknown,' said Andy Kingdon, one of the British team involved in the international expedition.

A region of sea ice the size of France and Germany has melted there in the past 30 years and scientists think the inflow of fresh water could affect global ocean currents, possibly shutting down the Gulf Stream, which bathes Europe in warm water - though not as rapidly as in the film The Day After Tomorrow.

'All the climate models you've ever seen are based on assumptions not real data,' Mr Kingdon said.

I guess The Day After Tomorrow at least put global warming into popular consciousness, but I wish they had done a little more research.

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