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Tip of Greenland Drives Atlantic Ocean Circulation January 4, 2013
Satellite Image
Cloud eddies form when winds bunch up against the rough terrain of southeastern Greenland.
The steep topography at the southern tip of Greenland has been found to create a profound effect on local wind currents and the ocean circulation of the entire North Atlantic.

Researcher Kent Moore of the University of Toronto Mississauga documented that the sharp cliffs of Cape Farewell, at the very bottom of the massive island, make the site the windiest place in the world.

Winds forced around the cape instead of over it by topography become “tip jets” in wind acceleration similar to what allows an airplane wing to create lift.

The jets interact with the ocean below, chilling the warm Gulf Stream current and causing it to sink as it becomes colder and denser.

“The winds are what cause the return flow for the Gulf Stream, and are an example of how the atmosphere drives ocean circulations,” Moore says in his findings, published in the journal Geophysical Review Letters.

Similar tip jets affect the flow of sea ice in northern Greenland and create ocean storms over the Labrador Sea, Moore adds.

Photo: NASA