Gulf Stream Slowdown May Bring Later Cold
The Gulf Stream is weakening, and Europe could expect a prolonged cold spell as the world warms – but not the day after tomorrow.
As the Gulf Stream weakens in a rapidly warming world, north-western Europe could paradoxically become cooler. There is, however, a time lag between those two climate change-related events, and US scientists now think they know how long that could be.
It could be as much as 400 years.
They know this because the world has warmed and cooled before, and as the difference between tropics and Arctic narrows, there is a change in the so-called Atlantic conveyor, an important part of the climate machine.
This vast Atlantic current carries a steady flow of warm water to the far north, making north-western Europe up to 5°C warmer than its latitude would otherwise dictate. Then, as it meets colder, denser Arctic waters, it dives, to carry its burden of surface carbon to the depths, and then flows southwards again.
This phenomenon, known as the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, or AMOC, is in effect Europe’s bespoke heating system: Britain’s chief scientific adviser once calculated that it delivers to the UK alone the warmth of 27,000 power stations.
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