Ocean turbulence hits 5 million watts

Aug. 11, 2007 at 1:03 AM
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TALLAHASSEE , Fla., Aug. 11 (UPI) -- Seawater rushing through an underwater mountain range in the Atlantic is generating record turbulence levels, U.S. and French researchers said.

The turbulence in the Mid-Atlantic Ridge packs an energy wallop equal to about 5 million watts, comparable to a small nuclear reactor, lead author Louis St. Laurent of Florida State University said in the journal Nature.

The report said the turbulence -- located about one mile below the surface, roughly halfway between New York and Portugal -- is generating much of the mixing of warm and cold water in the Atlantic Ocean.

St. Laurent said the mixing produces the overall balance of water temperatures that helps control the strength of the Gulf Stream.

"We are aware that the climate is warming, but we don’t yet fully understand how the changes will affect society," he said. "Our work will result in better models for predicting how the ocean will affect the climate in the future and a better understanding of sea-level rise, weather patterns such as El Nino, and the impact of these events on fisheries."

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