A Small Hint of Big Trouble in the Oceans

Some scientists think melting ice from Greenland could be inhibiting the crucial northern branch of the Gulf Stream current — the vast ocean current that runs from West Africa to the Americas, up the East Coast and back across the Atlantic to the British Isles — it has served for ages as a kind of planetary heat pump that helps regulate the planet’s climate.

It is one of Earth’s major climate-regulating ocean currents and moving slower than it has in thousands of years. Human-induced climate change is largely to blame, says a report in the LifeScience.

The Gulf Stream (red line in the center) impacts weather on both sides of the Atlantic. (Image credit: RedAndr/ NOAA/ CC 4.0)

“The current could slow down to a point of no return and could disappear, altering the climate on both sides of the Atlantic.”

Consequences could include faster sea level rise along parts of the Eastern United States and Europe, stronger hurricanes barreling into the Southeastern United States, and perhaps most ominously, reduced rainfall across the Sahel, the semi-arid swath of land running the width of Africa that is already a geopolitical tinderbox.

“We’re all wishing it’s not true,” Peter de Menocal, president and director of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, said of the shifting ocean currents to The New York Times. “Because if that happens, it’s just a monstrous change.”

Officials in Miami-Dade County have said to have released an upbeat strategy for coping with two feet of sea-level rise by 2060, by elevating buildings, raising roads and encouraging more density on higher land. What’s not on the list: Retreating from the coast. Experts questioned how realistic it is for Miami to keep putting up luxury homes right by the water as climate change keeps getting worse. At some point, they warn, living with rising seas will require not just buildings on stilts, but moving people inland.


To learn more, researchers have slung necklace-like sensor arrays across the ocean, not only on the surface, but hundreds of feet deep.

News in video: Effect of climate change somewhere in the Pak/Afghan region along the Himalayan range. A WhatsApp share

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