Science Round-Up: Currently warm enough, unless you want your winters Canadian?

New study suggests North Atlantic Current is losing its thrust due to climate change – and that Denmark is in firing range

Thank god it’s there, or it would be frightfully cold (photo: R. Curry, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution/Science/USGCRP.)
March 3rd, 2021 5:00 pm| by Orsolya Albert
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Ever been to the Faroes and wondered why they’re not incredibly cold? The simple answer is that they’re sitting in the path of the North Atlantic Current, the continuation of the Gulf Stream, which steadily brings warm water from the south.

Denmark and other parts of northern Europe are also beneficiaries. Without the current, they would be as cold as Canada!

Colder winters in store?
But now, according to research carried out by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, the current has not been this weak for 1000 years.

Should it weaken further, it could cause colder winters, longer summer heatwaves and less precipitation.

The current works like a heat pump: it picks up hot water from the south and replaces it with cold water. The power of the current, therefore, plays an important role in the balance of the whole Gulf Stream.

Steadily in decline
The decline of the stream has been well documented since the 19th century.

However, while researchers know the current can naturally decline, and was one of the causes of the Little Ice Age, which reigned over Denmark from 1300 to 1850, they attribute the recent decline to human activities.

They estimate the current has lost 15 percent of its thrust, and that this could reach 45 percent as a result of climate change.


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