More bad news regarding climate change. Scientists have been warning for years that it appears that the Gulf Stream is weakening or slowing down. But now, a report has been released saying that the ocean current (and the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation) is in danger of collapsing. Which would mean catastrophic climate changes. Uh-oh.
The Gulf Stream and Florida Current are part of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) which transports warm, salty water from the tropics to northern Europe and then south along the ocean floor towards Antarctica.. This is why the UK, Ireland, Iceland, and other European countries have relatively mild temperatures, even though they are so far north.
What would a collapse mean? It could result in extremely cold temperatures in Europe (as well as parts of North America), sea level rise in feet (not inches) among the North American coast, change in rain and monsoons, and on and on. In other words, a catastrophic effect.
What to do? Greenhouse gases (e.g. carbon dioxide) need to be reduced. Pronto. Some articles to read:
Washington Post: A critical ocean system may be heading for collapse due to climate change, study finds
Human-caused warming has led to an “almost complete loss of stability” in the system that drives Atlantic Ocean currents, a new study has found — raising the worrying prospect that this critical aquatic “conveyor belt” could be close to collapse.
And the apparent consequences of the AMOC slowing are already being felt. A persistent “cold blob” in the ocean south of Greenland is thought to result from less warm water reaching that region. The lagging Gulf Stream has caused exceptionally high sea level rise along the U.S. East Coast. Key fisheries have been upended by the rapid temperature swings, and beloved species are struggling to cope with the changes.
If the AMOC does completely shut down, the change would be irreversible in human lifetimes, Boers said. The “bi-stable” nature of the phenomenon means it will find new equilibrium in its “off” state. Turning it back on would require a shift in the climate far greater than the changes that triggered the shutdown.
“It’s one of those events that should not happen, and we should try all that we can to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as quickly as possible,” Boers said. “This is a system we don’t want to mess with.”
The Guardian: Climate crisis: Scientists spot warning signs of Gulf Stream collapse
From Forbes: Major Atlantic Current May Be On The Verge Of Collapse, Scientists Warn
If the current were to stop, there could be a major shakeup in the world’s climate, with the most likely impact being western Europe falling into an indefinitely long cold snap. A similar situation is believed to have happened when the Amoc stopped near the end of the Ice Age, with gas bubbles suggesting that the cold spell lasted around 1,000 years.