Scientists working off Cornwall gather Arctic data
A team of scientists currently working off Cornwall has been instrumental in gathering new data on the temperature of seawater at the Arctic.
The Catlin Arctic Survey 2011 collated measurements during an eight-week expedition from March to May.
Scientists measured changes which they say may impact the way warm and cold water is circulated around the globe.
Researchers say it is these currents that "have a major impact on the Earth's climate and weather patterns."
"The Arctic is one of best barometers of climate change, where we see big changes taking place today," said Simon Boxall, from the National Oceanography Centre (NOC) at the University of Southampton.
During the survey holes were drilled through the floating ice and instruments lowered into the water to measure temperature, salinity and flow.
Dr Boxall added: "The temperature change indicates that melting sea ice in the Arctic is quickly circulating into the ocean's depths and being replaced by warmer seawater from below."
While global ocean temperatures are rising, a layer of fresher water immediately beneath the Arctic sea ice is thought to act as buffer between the ice and warmer Atlantic waters flowing into the Arctic Ocean basin at a lower level, say researchers.
Any change to the processes which sustain this system could impact weather patterns in Europe and the East Coast of North America.
Stephen Catlin, chief executive of Catlin Group Limited, title sponsor of the Catlin Arctic Survey, said: "We are anxiously awaiting the full analysis of the data to see what impact these changes could have on the earth's population."