The weakest Gulf Stream in 1,000 years could lead to “more extreme” winters in Britain and Europe, according to the UK Climate News
The Gulf Stream, which is warming the UK and northwestern Europe, is the weakest in over 1,000 years and could lead to “more extreme and intense” winters, according to researchers.
They say the slowdown seen in the 20th century is “unprecedented” and likely linked to climate change.
Part of a larger “conveyor belt” of ocean currents known as the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), the Gulf Stream carries warm water from the tip of Florida to Europe.
Its effects ensure that the UK has relatively mild winters and without it, experts believe temperatures would be 5 ° C cooler.
AMOC helps ensure that the oceans are continuously mixed, with heat and energy being distributed around the globe and affecting the climate.
Scientists say it was relatively stable until a decline around 1850, followed by a more drastic decline in the mid-20th century.
According to the study, the change could bring “more extreme and intense winter weather events in Europe”, a greater likelihood of flooding on the east coast of the USA and also global consequences.
“An abrupt slowdown in the AMOC is an important mechanism for heat redistribution and critical to the world’s climate. It could cause disruption around the world – including sudden rises in regional sea levels, changes in location of heavy rainfall and arid climates,” we say the research team.
The international study, in which experts from University College London as well as Ireland and Germany participated, reconstructed the AMOC flow over the past 1,600 years.
They used indicators like proxy data from tree rings, ice cores, ocean sediments, and corals, as well as historical data like ship logs.
Dr. UCL’s David Thornalley, who co-authored the study, said a slowdown in the AMOC due to global warming had long been predicted, but it was “increasing evidence of support for the modern Atlantic Ocean that is unprecedented compared to the past millennium Has undergone changes “.
He said the marine ecosystems are already affected. The potential flood hazard for the US could arise if the AMOC flow north, which diverts water from the east coast, is disrupted
“When the current slows down, this effect weakens and more water can accumulate on the east coast of the US, leading to increased sea level rise,” said lead author Dr. Levke Caesar from the ICARUS Climate Research Center and Maynooth University in Ireland.
According to climate models, global warming could weaken the Gulf Stream by an additional 34-45% by 2100, according to researchers, who warn that this could be a “tipping point where currents become unstable”.
The study was published in the journal Nature Geoscience.