Why Gulf Stream Ocean Currents are Disrupted by Climate Change (Important) (Download PDF)


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Serious disruption to Gulf Stream ocean currents that are crucial in controlling global climate must be avoided “at all costs”, senior scientists have warned. Alert follows revelation this week that system is at its weakest ever recorded.

Image of Thermohaline circulation

Image of Thermohaline Circulation

Image of Thermohaline circulation

Impact of Weak North Atlantic Ocean Circulation

  • North Atlantic Ocean circulation became disrupted, causing northern section of North America & Europe to experience sudden ice age.
  • As that occurred, tsunami flooded Manhattan & massive storms pounded Tokyo & Los Angeles. It was disaster of epic proportions, which took place within 2 hours of screen time.

What is Gulf Stream?

  • Gulf Stream is powerful current in Atlantic Ocean.
  • It starts in Gulf of Mexico & flows into Atlantic at tip of Florida, accelerating along eastern coastlines of US & Newfoundland.
  • It is part of North Atlantic Subtropical Gyre, one of 5 major oceanic gyres, which are large systems of circular currents & powerful winds.
  • Gulf Stream is western boundary current; its behaviour is determined by North American coastline.
  • Gulf Stream affects climate of areas closest to current by transferring tropical heat toward northern latitudes.
  • 1st mention of Gulf Stream can be traced to 1513 expedition of Juan Ponce de León.

Reason for Weakening of Gulf Stream?

Image of Gulf Stream

Image of Gulf Stream

Image of Gulf Stream

  • Gulf Stream is one of Earth’s major ocean-circulation systems, redistributing heat on planet.
  • “Sea-surface fingerprint” shows that it has slowed by about 15 % since middle of 20th century.
  • Fingerprint shows cooling south of Greenland & warmer waters off east coast of US. The “main reason” is rising greenhouse gas emissions. Climate models predict “very specific pattern” of sea surface changes when Gulf Stream system slows down. “Exactly that pattern” is in observational data since about 1870 in Gulf Stream.
  • Other new research this week showed that Greenland’s massive ice cap is melting at fastest rate for at least 450 years. As greenhouse gas levels rise, this brings more precipitation, as well as loss of sea ice in Arctic & melting of glaciers on Greenland.
  • In past, Gulf Stream brought warm water north. As it cooled, it became denser, causing it to sink. Colder, denser water then flowed south in opposite direction below warmer water going north in current.
  • New fresh water being dumped into North Atlantic is hindering engine driving Gulf Stream. That is because precipitation & melted ice is less dense, & does not sink so easily.
  • This accounts for slowdown & if human beings don’t curb release of greenhouse gases into atmosphere, it’s only going to get worse.

- Published/Last Modified on: August 21, 2018


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