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June 30, 2021

Ocean Cruising!

NSF-funded researchers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography and MIT estimated the time it would take water to journey from the lower branch of the Atlantic to around the world's ocean basins.

Credit: National Science Foundation

Ocean Cruising!

Hi, I'm Mo Barrow with The Discovery Files, from NSF -- the U.S. National Science Foundation.

Have you ever taken an ocean cruise? Well, guess what? The Atlantic Ocean itself cruises.

But it takes different parts of the Atlantic anywhere from 300 to 2,800 years to complete its grand tour around the world.

NSF-funded scientists at the University of California, San Diego's Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology estimated the time it would take water to journey from the lower branch of the Atlantic to around the world's ocean basins.

The researchers used a computer simulated ocean model known as "Estimating the Circulation and Climate of the Ocean" or ECCO -- which uses information from more than 1 billion points of data collected from such sites as satellites and robotic free-drifting floats.

Why is this important?

The oceanographers calculated that atmospheric carbon is being kept locked away in the ocean depths for a much shorter time than previously estimated, nearly half as long!

The team also learned an essential component of the Atlantic's circulation could be more vulnerable to disruption than originally thought potentially triggering extreme weather changes around the Atlantic and the world.

Their research is much like weather forecasting with predictions based on ocean history.

So, when you take your cruise, remember the ocean is cruising along with you -- just at a much more leisurely pace.

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