The Arctic Ocean is warming so quickly that it may soon be considered part of the Atlantic, according to a new report published in the journal Nature Climate Change.
Since 2000, temperatures have increased 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the region, which is twice as fast as the rest of the world, according to the Independent.
And now the defining features of the Arctic Ocean are changing, particularly in the Barents Sea above Finland, the report revealed.
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The researchers noted dramatic shifts occurring in both the atmosphere and water columns in the Barents Sea, which is where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Arctic Ocean.
The Barents Sea is divided into two halves. The southern half, which is fed by waters from the Atlantic, is warmer and fosters biodiversity similar to southern waters, whereas the northern half is typically covered by a sheet of ice that keeps the area cool.
Since the 1970s, that ice sheet has eroded and the northern half has come to resemble the southern half, with higher salinity levels and warmer temperatures.
And it’s creating a feedback loop of warm Atlantic waters creeping father into the north, causing an annual retreat of ice sheets. Soon, the researchers fear, the region could begin to seem like the Atlantic, homogenizing marine environments and disrupting countless ecosystems.
“Unless the freshwater input should recover, the entire region could soon have a warm and well-mixed water column structure and be part of the Atlantic domain," the scientists wrote in the study, according to Live Science.
This “Atlantification” would be an unprecedented event in human history, according to the report, and could have a significant impact on global sea levels, weather patterns, and marine species.
The evolution of the Barents Sea is just the latest example of the abrupt changes happening in the Arctic, which has lost 1 million square kilometers of ice since 1979.
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