Research and Application News
Seasonal Monsoon Rains Block Key Ocean Current
17 May 2019
Our oceans and the complex "conveyer belt" system of currents that connects them play an important role in regulating global climate. The oceans store heat from the Sun, and ocean currents transport that heat from the tropics to the poles. They release the heat and moisture into the air, which moderates climate nearby. But what happens if part of that conveyer belt jams?
It's not a theoretical question. Scientists have observed that a major ocean current called the Indonesia Throughflow, which provides the only tropical connection between the Pacific and Indian oceans, slows dramatically near the surface during the Northwest Asia monsoon season — usually December through March. And a team of scientists, led by Tong Lee of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, has figured out why.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/GSFC - sea surface salinity and soil moisture from NASA's Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) satellite