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Science & Technology

Scientists spot signs of Gulf Stream collapse

By T.K. Randall
August 6, 2021 · Comment icon 21 comments



The collapse of the Gulf Stream would be catastrophic. Image Credit: CC BY-SA 4.0 Brocken Inaglory
Climate experts have detected warning signs that the Gulf Stream could collapse in the not-too-distant future.
It might not be as bad as in the movie 'The Day After Tomorrow', but without the Gulf Stream to carry warm water up towards the United Kingdom and Europe, things will definitely get a lot colder.

Recent research has indicated that global warming has taken its toll on the AMOC (Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation) - the system of ocean currents of which the Gulf Stream is a part.

The Gulf Stream itself was relatively stable until around the 1850s when it started to decline and now it is the weakest it has been at any point over the last 1,000 years.

"The signs of destabilisation being visible already is something that I wouldn't have expected and that I find scary," said Niklas Boers of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany.
"It's something you just can't [allow to] happen."

Suffice to say, if the Gulf Stream was to collapse, it would cause catastrophic disruption worldwide.

"The only thing to do is keep emissions as low as possible," said Boers. "The likelihood of this extremely high-impact event happening increases with every gram of CO2 that we put into the atmosphere."

Exactly when such a collapse is likely to happen is currently unclear. It could be two decades away or it could be two centuries away, but it is coming.

Whether we can find a way to stop it before it's too late, however, remains to be seen.

Source: The Guardian | Comments (21)


Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #12 Posted by Essan 1 year ago
No.  Not even a "mini ice age" But, it complicates the already complex changes being wrought by global warming.  So expect more extremes of weather all over the world (some of which may be cold extremes, though the real issue, as it has always been, will be changes in rainfall patterns - these are what modern humans need to be stable more than anything else, sincve our entire agricultural system, and indeed infrastructure, is based on what we had in the 20th century).
Comment icon #13 Posted by Harte 1 year ago
They may have to stop making wine in Europe. Harte
Comment icon #14 Posted by Jon the frog 1 year ago
It could turn into a ''Permian Triassic extinction event'' in the worst case scenario... In the best case scenario it could frost back the permafrost and stop a freak methane release in the arctic.
Comment icon #15 Posted by Br Cornelius 1 year ago
Expect most of N.Europe to have the climate of the Labrador coast. That's a very unappealing prospect. There is a reason why Europe is one of the most densely populated areas on earth and Labrador one of the least.   Be Cornelius
Comment icon #16 Posted by Essan 1 year ago
Recent studies suggest that the main impact of a complete Gulf Stream shut-down for Europe would be enough cooling to off-set the current warming trend, so basically back to the 20th century .....  But more significantly, a reduction in rainfall. which could seriously impact agriculture. https://arstechnica.com/science/2020/01/modeling-what-would-happen-to-the-uk-if-the-gulf-stream-shuts-down/
Comment icon #17 Posted by Doug1066 1 year ago
There are other potential impacts:  three fewer inches of water falling in the Great Lakes Basin will shut down Niagara Falls, not to mention serious impacts on Agriculture. So far, Oklahoma is showing no hint of decreasing rainfall.  In fact, just the opposite.  But that might change. Doug
Comment icon #18 Posted by Doug1066 1 year ago
Found another link: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41561-021-00699-z.pdf I suspect this is also a subion link. If you have an ".edu" ending on your address, you might be able to access it through your on-campus library, that is, if your library is a subscriber. I don't think I'm going to find one that isn't subion-based. Doug P.S.:  try contacting your local library.  A lot of them can get you a copy for free. Doug
Comment icon #19 Posted by Poncho_Peanatus 1 year ago
so 1960 1970 climate?
Comment icon #20 Posted by Essan 1 year ago
Probably.   I think we'd survive!
Comment icon #21 Posted by Raptor Witness 1 year ago
If this Gulf Stream collapse happens, who will the new winners and losers be? After all, who will want to hold a cursed nation’s currency? Especially one who is arguably the most responsible for the Gulf Stream’s collapse, when it occurs? According to my Source, the United States will soon cease to be a world economic leader, due to the a rapid rise in the cost of natural disasters, which will soon collapse the insurance industry, followed by the banking industry that it supports. The cost of insurance will simply become prohibitive to the cost of lending. How a Gulf Stream collapse plays into... [More]


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