What’s going on in the North Atlantic?

Organized by the University of Iceland, Icelandic Met Office, PIK 24. August 2016

Saturday, October 8, 17:15-18:45

Location: Björtuloft, Harpa Fifth Level

In recent summaries of global temperature changes (such as in the IPCC WG1 report from 2013 [*]) the North Atlantic between Newfoundland and Ireland is one of the few regions on the globe that has defied the warming trend, and even cooled.  In recent years, a region of colder than usual temperatures has appeared there every winter, and often persisted throughout the summer. 

This phenomena has been referred to as the North Atlantic Cold Pool. What is going on? Oceanic conditions in this region are kept warm by the North Atlantic Current, an extension of the Gulf Stream, that brings warm waters towards Europe. The region is also a meeting place of water masses because there is a cold ocean current flowing from Greenland and the Labrador sea that encounters the warmer waters east of the Canada coast. To a certain extent the surface conditions in the North Atlantic are determined by the interaction of these warm and cold-water masses, but their dynamics is also influenced by the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation that has long been implicated in climate variability in the region. To complicate matters even further, conditions in the atmosphere, such as the frequency of cold air outbreaks from the North American continent during winter may also influence the local surface conditions of the ocean. Due to the number of different factors that influence the oceanic climate in the region explaining the appearance of the Cold Pool is not trivial.  Some studies show that the Cold Pool may be the result of a slowing down of the circulation that brings warm waters into the region, but more work is needed to understand the variability (natural as well as anthropogenic) of the region.  This workshop brings together scientists to discuss the origin and consequences of the Cold Pool.


  • Halldór Bjornsson, Head of atmospheric research group, Icelandic Met Office:  “The North Atlantic Cold Pool. A short biography”
  • Stefan Rahmstorf, Head of Earth System Analysis, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research; Professor Potsdam University: Evidence for a significant slowdown of the North Atlantic overturning circulation
  • Ingibjörg Jónsdottir, Professor University of Iceland: The impact of the north Atlantic Cold Pool
  • Steingrímur Jónsson, Professor of Oceanography at the University of Akureyri
  • Héðinn Valdimarsson, Senior Research Scientist at the Marine Research Institute, Reykjavik


  • Oddur Sigurðsson, Geologist, Icelandic Met Office